Thursday, December 8, 2011
Monday, June 20, 2011
I was watching a clip of the Broadway cast rehearsing the title number from “Anything Goes”, and there was a huge tap dance number in it. And because my run this morning was particularly inspired, I looked at those actual dancers dancing and thought to myself, “Eh, I could do that.” Really, Laura? Could you? Because I’m thinking maybe not. Because last time you took tap dancing, the improv portion of the class made you want to fake a coughing fit and leave “for a drink of water.” The world’s longest drink of water.
When I was little, I had a failed ballet career. Probably no surprise to my mom, since all I really wanted out of it was a ballet tote bag, ballet stationary, and a New York Ballet poster once I got on point. Got on point? Is that even the correct phrase? So then I tried tap, which was much better because it was so much louder. Under the tutelage of Joan Welpot [best name ever!] I became an voracious practitioner. In her mid-forties, Joan Welpot had an amazing, long figure and hair that was bulletproof; it was a retro bouffant that arched high off her forehead and ended in a flip just above her shoulders. Even when executing the most difficult tap sequences such as the double-pull-back, her hair remained perfectly in place. Joan Welpot wore polyester bodysuits that flared slightly at the ankles, and around her waist was a four-inch elastic belt that fastened with a big, plastic button closure. These suits were one of three colors: navy, dark green, or maroon. We all knew it was a bad outfit, but somehow she carried it off. Such was the power of Joan Welpot. She always wore a full face of makeup, and when she told me I had beautiful eyes, I took it as a compliment from someone who knew these things. I’ll spare you the details of my riveting, enthusiastic performance at our recital to “Puttin’ On the Ritz”, which I can still basically perform, and instead say that whatever I lacked in grace and style, I made up for with my smile.
About ten years after my first lesson, I enrolled in tap again while in graduate school, and it all came rushing back. All the steps, all the noise, all the fun of just cutting loose and watching it happen in the mirror. Trying to make more sounds than the seconds allow. Finally mastering a pull-back, which seemed so impossibly hard that only Joan Welpot could do them. And then there you are one day, legs finally strong enough, and in an effortless motion, you are making six separate sound in less than two seconds. The first day I nailed it I had to stop and do a dance of joy. I had actually figured out how to do something new.
Since all the students were older, the teacher was beyond trying to cure us of our own personal styles. I definitely bore the mark of one who has watched too many musicals, with my head planning greater things than my feet could manage. One woman treated tap dancing like and Irish jig, her arms always against her sides, her posture stiff. Another woman was all hips and house-music, and modern style of tap I had never seen. But soaring above us all was Eleni. From day one, we knew she was what we wanted to be: tall, lithe, and with ten years of tap in her feet. She could do anything and make it look easy. She made us all feel like the popular girl was in our class, and by some magic of the transitive property, we were popular too. I had thought tap was for spazzy and loud girls, ones with too much energy. Eleni showed us that underneath all the bouncy smiles and enthusiasm was something subtle and quite possibly sexy. With a cock of the shoulder, a tilt of the hip, an extra pause (along with long, dark hair, perfect teeth, and lipliner) tap had something to offer the adult woman. Something we never fathomed in junior high.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Monday, June 6, 2011
I bought my first KitchenAid mixer when I was a senior in college. I was an RA that year, which meant free room and board, and I had cashed in my meal plan for, well, cash. I had so much money for my weekly meals that I skimmed $350 off the top, earmarked for the mixer. It was a prezzie to myself for dealing with 65 freshmen girls (including one who went to retrieve her late-night pizza topless—fun times, right?). That whole year, I dreamed of my mixer and gazed upon my mixer clock/magnet, placed at eye-level on my desk, as a harbinger of the greatness that soon would be mine.
I loved my first mixer, and much of my early married life would have been worse without it. I baked like it was my job, always trying to find the best poundcake, peanut butter cookie, or chocolate cake--what a lovely two months. But alas, when we forayed into breadbaking, my mixer took a nosedive off the counter, got a dent, and then never really worked right after that. Every time I looked at it, my heart felt like it also had a dent.
Some time after that, I scored a similar model on CraigsList from an Indian women who said she thought she would take up baking when she got married but never did. It looked the same but smelled unmistakably of curry for the first few months. That pupper lasted three years, until HerrB set it on fire making pizza dough one day (upon hearing this story, 3-year-old Sally said, “Actual flames, Babbo? Actual??” Yes, actual flames.) I’ll spare you the details of the many attempts at repair, and the two days it took us to break—actual breakage, Sally—a brand new one with its fancy 6-quart bowl and automatic shut-off when things got too tough for it, which was about 36 seconds into a batch of something soft.
But I won’t spare you the details of the 6 months I have spent without a mixer, and how, in that time, I came to understand that people—even people who might bake—do not have mixers. What now? Memory flashback to our life-long neighbors growing up who definitely had homemade cookies but no mixer. I still don’t know how they did it. Because for the past 6 months, I have borrowed a mixer every time I had a baking emergency (special mention to my sister’s Cousances de France Grand Mixeur and her hand mixer which grew me new muscles after making The Best Birthday Cake Ever because, despite having something called a Power Boost, I’m pretty sure I did all the work).
So you can imagine that I am flying high today, having taken my mother-in-law’s old mixer to the fix-it shop. And in 5 days, I will have my third mixer, replica of the previous two. And I will bring some butter to room temp and I will set my oven to 350° and if you walk by my house, you are in for a treat. Mark your calendar. Oh, baking, I have missed you so.
Thursday, June 2, 2011
Monday, April 4, 2011
It started as innocent hopscotchery. You know: new sidewalk chalk, a four-year-old who wants to practice numbers and hopping. And before you know it, HerrB is asking her to judge a contest of who is better at hopscotch and pushing me out of the way when I am not doing it "right" (he, of the sly walk-off dismount from square 1, which is so illegal). And then when I take my turn and am the clear winner, he tries to have a re-do. What? How old are you? You know you all want to swing on by and join our reindeer games--admit it.