Category Archives: self-indulgence

The Depth of my Depravity

The problem with having young children is you just can’t devour a chocolate bar without being noticed.

The other day, I gave my kids a healthy after school snack of apples and wheat germ. Then I planted them in front of an educational television program and scurried back to the kitchen, whereupon I opened the pantry and proceeded to stare inside.

I noticed a chocolate bar.

I took that chocolate bar and began to unwrap it with the stealth of a sniper. I even paused my breathing. The first velvet bite was mere inches away from my mouth when two small humans, about yea big, materialized behind me.

“WHAT ARE YOU EATING MAMA?”

Lickety-split, I tucked that chocolate bar into the elastic waistband of my yoga pants.

“Oh, just some raw almonds. Would you like one?”

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Shuffling Confidently in the Direction of my Dreams

Wade Rouse and Rima Tessman

Remember what I said about bed and breakfasts?

I take it back.

I spent last weekend at a writing workshop hosted by best-selling author Wade Rouse, who is just as genuine and approachable as he is talented. All eleven of the assembled writers (that’s what I’m calling myself now) stayed at the historic Twin Gables Inn overlooking Lake Kalamazoo in beautiful Saugatuck, Michigan, and it was one of the most productive and relaxing weekends I’ve ever spent.

Wade is one of those authors who did not forget the little people once he achieved success in his writing career. Let’s say for example you sidled up to him with hands trembling and voice shaking after reading your work out loud and said, “I just wanted to let you know that I totally misunderstood the assignment. You probably won’t believe this, but I write very differently in real life. And I am a good mother, too. Just so you know.”

Instead of looking down his nose at you, Wade would cut his lunch hour short by twenty minutes to talk with you about your craft, provide constructive criticism, and share specifics about how to sell an idea, land an agent, publish a book. And later he would conference you and your peers in to a phone call with his agent, who would spend thirty minutes answering your newbie questions from her busy office in New York. In other words, he’s one of those rare people who genuinely want to see others succeed.

Writing, Writing, Writing

Besides gleaning useful advice at this workshop, I had the pleasure of befriending a fabulous group of fellow writers who I hope to stay in contact with for many years to come. After sitting around that beautifully set table overlooking the misty lake for three solid days, we forged a bond that only people who’ve laid their innermost fears and emotions bare can achieve in such a short space of time.

I slept soundly in my glorious pillow-topped king sized bed, ate like a queen, and was even treated to a personal tour of Saugatuck by Wade’s delightful partner, Gary. And on the last night of the workshop, after drinking one glass of wine and a chocolate martini, I even performed a few freestyle folk dance moves in the lobby of the Inn accompanied by my new friend Laura’s husband on the baby grand.

If you have been thinking seriously about writing for publication and are ready to take the next step, I would highly recommend attending one of Wade’s workshops. You’ll leave with a bag full of Michigan apple butter and wine, solid real world advice, and the belief that your dream is possible to achieve.

No Writers' Workshop Is Complete Without a Trip to the Local Winery

The View from the Inn

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Let Them Eat Small Plates Festooned with Craft Beads and Flowers

The P-Dawg and I spent much of our anniversary week in Vegas eating. There are so many restaurants operated by world-renowned chefs there, that we only had the chance to sample a few. But among them was Joël Robuchon, one of the few Michelin three star rated restaurants in the U.S. It was a tad out of our comfort zone, but we had to try it.

A complementary limo picked us up for the five minute ride from Bellagio (our hotel) to Robuchon. We had just enough time to stuff our pockets with bottles of spring water and Tweet pictures of ourselves en route before arriving at the restaurant through a super secret gated entrance, where a woman in a floor length black gown greeted us like we were Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

She escorted us through a gorgeous courtyard and series of hallways into the restaurant, which was decorated in completely over the top sumptuous art deco. I am talking about shades of purple, gold, and blue, pictures in gilded mirrors, and enough velvet to upholster the Eiffel Tower. Our corner table provided an excellent view of the dining room, so I immediately took an inventory of our fellow gourmands to make sure I wasn’t under dressed. The handful of other couples there looked a lot like the P-Dawg and me, but there were two Russian mobsters wearing jeans and Prada t-shirts, which I thought was totalement inappropriate.

Le Yard de Court

The French maitre d’ looked exactly like the soulless commando character on Lost and our server, also French, looked like the short haired chick from the Matrix. Neither of them had a sense of humor, so in case you are planning a trip to Robuchon in the near future and want to crack bad jokes referencing Jacques Cousteau or Pepe le Pew in rusty French, be forewarned.

P-Dawg ordered the “tasting menu,” which consisted of thirteen courses of the chef’s choice.  I couldn’t bring myself to do this so I ordered from the prix fixe menu and I still got eight courses. (Each course is about the size of a small fist.)

If thirteen courses is not enough, there was also this bread cart they kept wheeling up to the table with probably one thousand varieties of bread on it. There was no end to the bread cart, not to mention the pillar o’hand churned butter which they also brought by on a regular basis.

La Carte de Bread

La Carte de Chocolate

I knew Emily Post would roll over in her grave (is she dead?) if I did it, but I took a secret iPhone photo of the bread cart anyway, for you. Later I noticed that other people were shamelessly photographing, Facebooking, and Tweeting their food, so I took out my real camera and started balls out documenting our meal. Klassy. Ten minutes after that, I finished my first glass of wine and forgot I had a camera. (Sorry.)

The food was to die for.  I have never in my life tasted flavors and textures so perfectly combined, although at times I could have done without the Michael’s Crafts inspired art deco presentation.  One of P-Dawg’s entrees was festooned with what appeared to be Mardi Gras beads and another had a quail egg in it, which he was not supposed to eat. I was going to bring it home in my purse, but I forgot.

Also of note is the fact that whenever I got up to use the ladies’ room (we were there for four hours), one of the waitstaff would

The Food is on Your Left

materialize like a ninja to pull the table away from my purple velvet upholstered bench. Almost as if they knew I was going to have to go before I did. After a while it got so that I’d try to sneak out as fast as I could just to thwart them, but I never did.

After the entrees, we were presented with a cheese cart very similar to the bread cart except without the ever-present stalks of wheat. Then we had dessert and after that they brought us an anniversary cake. Just when I was convinced there was no way I could eat another bite, out came the chocolate cart, from which we could select anything we wanted with no limit but our own willingness to look piggish. I picked four.

They sent us tottering home with a gift bag containing a vellum copy of the P-Dawg’s menu de degustation with his name printed on the top, a bound menu book, and a loaf of blueberry lemon pound bread. The lady in the black dress came back to escort us to a lounge off the courtyard where we waited like dilettantes for our limo to return.

I’m guessing I gained about ten pounds at Robuchon, but the plus side is that after eating there and at Thomas Keller’s Vegas restaurant, the P-Dawg has become a very inspired cook.  I bought him Keller’s Ad Hoc at Home cookbook for his recent birthday and he’s been concocting ad hoc delicacies all week.  In fact, I’m going to have to excuse myself now because my meal of pork roast with fruit and rum compote, roasted radishes and brussels sprouts, and peach cobbler a la mode awaits.

And I’m going to eat it with a glass of cheesecake, if you know what I mean.

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Joie de Vivre

I wanted to be a gymnast, and I was pretty sure I could do it. I had the right build, a little bit of talent, and a lot of enthusiasm.  As a kid, I lived in a leotard and traveled via cartwheel. I could drop into a banana split anywhere, anytime, and if I wasn’t executing a round-off/back-handspring combo across your front lawn, I was trying to recruit you for the neighborhood Olympics. After a year of lessons at a local gym, I was invited to join a team and compete seriously.

But I didn’t. Even if my parents hadn’t put the kabash on the idea of a gymnastics career (they felt it was more important for me to get an education and for them to put food on the table), the fact was that I had started training too late in life to think of competing seriously. I was devastated with thoughts of what could have been, but eventually hung up my leotard and set my sights on becoming either the first female network news anchor or Michael J. Fox’s wife.  And it was all for the best, because as my friend V later pointed out to me, “If you had kept training, you would have never developed boobs.”

I can’t say I’m very athletic anymore – the mere thought of attempting the splits requires an epidural and the last time I tried to do a handstand, I had to put my head between my legs.  But I still try to bust a move every now and then, to show off for my kids or get the old familiar rush.

And it is a rush.  There’s something about gymnastics that is so powerful and thrilling – it’s like ballet with balls.  I turned 37 while on vacation last week and to mark the occasion, I did a string of cartwheels on the beach. They were not perfect, but at least I pointed that one toe and didn’t pull anything.

In fact, I’m going to make it a birthday tradition for as long as I can.

Special Note to Béla Károlyi: CALL ME.

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