Random Wednesday: Promptly Penned – Cake

It’s the time of the month where we have our promptly penned posts. As a group, we’re given a quote, sentence, or an idea and asked to write a short story around it. I can’t remember the last time I did one of these. It’s been a while because I’m a terrible person. Here are the less terrible people participating today:

Jessica Jarman

Bronwyn Green

Soibhan Muir

Deelylah Mullin

Kris Norris

Please, pay them a visit and give their stories a read. Today, I present you my short story below titled, Cake.
____________________________________________________________________

Fondant is the bane of my existence. The moment a cake is set down in front of me the first thing I am going to look at is the frosting. If there is fondant on it, I will peel that son of a bitch off of there and throw it under the table like it never existed. Fondant is gross. Starch packing peanuts are less gross. Those are actually kind of fun to eat. Take a starch packing peanut, put it on your tongue, close your month, and it will dissolve instantly.

Didn’t know you could do that with starch packing peanuts? Find that weird? Well let’s talk about the asshole who invented fondant.

Let’s make a dough, but we can’t use flour, it’s not sweet. We’ll need to use something else that is elastic enough to keep it’s shape when rolled and formed. Gelatin! We’ll use gelatin and sugar with food coloring plus a few odd and ends like glycerin. Brilliant! Because the weird skin that forms over your best attempt at home-made jello jigglers is exactly what people want on their desserts.

That is why fondant is weird. And gross.

For the curious, the second thing I look for the moment a cake is set down in front of me is if it has a layer of fruit jelly, or filling, or whatever that mysterious layer of fruit is. Because at that point, it’s game over. If I wanted fruit with my cake I would have ordered a goddamn pie.

“Take a baking class.” My husband said.
“It would be good for you to get out more.” My husband said.
“You love to cook, why don’t you try something new? Baking sounds fun.” My husband said.

But there I am, sitting in a high school class room after hours with a hot mix of other Parks and Recreation sign-ups. The desk I picked said fuck Tom in pen dug deeply into the wood. I don’t know who Tom is but I’ve already sided with the author. The room smelled of sweet vanilla and had me under a trance as soon as I walked in. While the class settled in I took a moment to look around the room and I spotted them. In the cooking area were a row of small cakes cooling. One for each person in the class plus a few extra. I’m pretty good at math.

The instructor, a cheerful woman named Ms. Kim, set her reusable shopping bag on the front desk and started to pull out little plastic wrapped bundles.

“I had a few of my students stay over for a little extra credit and bake some small cakes for every one so today we could practice decorating. Everyone go ahead, grab a cake, and pick a station. You should already have tools out at your station, if you don’t, let me know.”

I left my desk, and that fucking Tom guy behind, and went straight for the cakes. Each of the cakes were perfect. The golden exteriors we smooth and silky. I picked up one of them to take to a station. The smell was heavenly. Absolutely heavenly. I don’t know which fifteen year old made this cake but they have a solid future ahead of them and a happy marriage if they keep this solid performance of cake perfection up.

At the baking station was butter, vanilla, and tools that I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a kitchen before. I pushed the tools aside and picked up the instruction sheet. It was the moment my day went from 10 to 11. It was the recipe for butter cream frosting. Moaning is not appropriate in these situations but there might have been a little moaning.

Making frosting from scratch is much easier than I thought. Ms. Kim questioned if I measured the vanilla correctly. Which I did. I had put in exactly what was on the instruction sheet and then I added exactly what I felt it needed. While we worked on frosting our cakes Ms. Kim started to microwave the little plastic bundles from earlier and pass them out a few at a time. I should have been listening but I totally wasn’t. I paid for the class and I was there to learn but, you know, buttercream frosting on a majestic cake, I had other things on my mind. But the word “frozen” caught my attention.

“…never put cake in the fridge. Always freeze it first. I’ll give you instructions on how to prep a cake properly for you to take home. We’re going to skip that step today for the sake of learning. This is only introduction and a little bit of a play time.”

A plastic bundle was set on my station. I looked around the room and everyone was unwrapping theirs. I decided to follow along feeling a little behind. My neighbor with the perfect hair and a smile full of gums was dusting her station with powdered sugar.

“Mine’s a little sticky. Is your’s sticky, too?” She whispered.

No idea. “A little.” I answered. To save face I copied her and dusted my station. Once I was done I finished unwrapping my bundle to expose a smooth and warm dough.

Ms. Kim handed out the last bundle and walked back to the first station she visited. She took a rolling pin and held it up to the class.

“You’re going to want to roll out your fondant until it’s 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick. A few of you have some textured rollers. Feel free to play and experiment. Share with your neighbors too, please. You should have plenty to both cover your cake and to make some other decorations with. If you see bubbles let me know, I have an xacto knife to use to release the air and work the bubbles out.”

“Oh, for christ’s sake.” I didn’t mean to say it out loud but Gums heard me.

“Something wrong?”

“No.” I left it at that. I kneaded the fondant a little and it was just painful. I though, okay, take a little bite of it. Maybe, it’s just a situation were I only ever had commercial fondant and home made is better. Like when you hate pork chops because your mom always cooked the shit out of them. They were so dry you had to saw through them with enough vigor to shake the dining room table. Twenty years later your college roommate throws a few chops on the George Foreman and you realized, oh shit, that’s how pork chops are supposed to taste.

I braved it as best I could. One small bite. A little square. A tiny piece. A squat white turdling. I put it in my mouth and chewed. The best way I can describe it was the chalky feeling of heart burn tablets combined with the off tasting sweetness and elasticity of whatever the white gummy bears are. I’m not sure what my face looked like exactly, I wasn’t aware I was making one. But Gums was watching me and looked away when my eyes caught hers.

“Alright everyone, watch me real quick for this next step. Do you mind?” Ms. Kim was staring right at me. In her hand, a rolling pin. Wrapped around it was layer of 1/8 to 1/4 of an inch thick fondant.

I regret to admit this but, natural instincts took over and I slid the cake off my work station, into the palm of my hand, and backed away several steps.

The majority of the class giggled though a few straightened from their work station, rolling pins frozen in their hands.

“It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt your cake.”

More giggles from the class.

“Take one more step closer, and I swear to god, I’ll drop this cake! I’ll do it! Don’t test me!” I yelled.

Everyone was roaring now but Gums. She slipped under her station and hid. In hindsight, it’s funny. At the time I thought, you might avoid the cake splatter but there isn’t a safe spot in this room the follow-up powdered sugar bomb can’t reach. I had no qualms about popping a bag of powder up in the air and hitting it with a rolling pin like a roided-up slugger. “You don’t like fondant?” Ms. Kim asked her face a little pink from laughing or embarrassment, I didn’t know.

“I, ah…” Shit. Shit shit shit shit shit shit. “..am vegetarian.” I was not going to win any Oscar’s for that one but I managed a quick save. “Of sorts. I’m okay with eggs and milk because those naturally occur from animals but fondant uses gelatin which is a slaughtering byproduct.”

“Oh.” Ms. Kim lowered her rolling pin for a moment only to lift it back up at the ready. “Fair enough. How about you? Do you mind?” She asked as she walked a few stations away, locking eyes with a husband and wife team.

I waited a few until everyone watched her demonstration and was distracted trying to cover their own cakes. I took my cake, casually grabbed my bag, and slipped out the door. I’m sure I didn’t go completely unnoticed. Either way, I didn’t go back. I suppose I could say I was embarrassed but that’s not really my style. I just, was no longer interested in the science of baking.

Fuck fondant.

And Tom.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Random Wednesday: Risks you say?

Today’s topic is risks, what you gained or lost.

I often weigh in on whether or not I should have paid for my own site on wordpress so it would not have to say “wordpress” in the address. However, their formatting sucks a big tough log so I’m still on the fence. Risk not taken and not sure I lost much.

Because this is a blog devoted to writing (mostly) it’s worth mentioning that writing takes risks. For me, I feel the risk is extremely heavy for the most irrational reasons and a few logical ones.

I’m going to name drop Jenny Trout. I know Jenny personally. When we hug our boobs touch, all in the name of friendship. I like Jenny and Jenny is far more socially conscious than I am. To that note, I learn a lot from Jenny. She tethers me to the world outside of my own. When it comes to writing, she can clock a bullshit author from a mile away and rip any manuscript a new asshole. Not just in the name of industry but also in the name of social issues and insensitivity.

What I learned from Jenny, is you have to be aware of what you are writing. There are more risks involved outside of the words on the page. Don’t write what you think people want to read, write what motivates you to write. More so, be prepared to defend yourself if people don’t see eye to eye. It’s easier to tell the truth and accept differences than to dig yourself out of the bullshit you created.

Writing what motivates you also means you have to be honest to yourself. The best writer I’ve ever read is unpublished and writes mostly for herself, sending me bits and pieces here and there. Her name is Katie and while we don’t see each other on the regular, I’m sure our boobs would also touch in the name of friendship when we hug all the same. Katie is very open about an aspect of her life that has made her who she is and that’s the suicide of her father. Katie’s writing is passionate, dark, gritty, and highly personal. She holds nothing back. While others, including myself, might find it a risk to be that open, Katie has no problem taking those risks and it shows with her undeniable talent in bringing real emotions into her characters.

No, I’m not outing something secretive about Katie and her personal life. There is nothing to out about Katie because Katie is Katie and if you are unsure of this, Katie will tell you about Katie in the most Katie-like fashion which involves a whole lot of Katie.

Logically, I feel the risk in writing is I could expose too much of me, more so than I’m comfortable exposing. Katie is well over that fear, me – not so much. While, irrationally, I’m worried writing has the risk of making me a total failure and Jenny Trout will end up calling me out for my bullshit. That’s not a blog I want to be on.

Eventually I’ll figure out the balance, how to write what’s true to myself and something I’m comfortable with even if boundaries are pushed slightly. Right now, I can’t say I’ve gained or lost anything because, I haven’t fully taken any risks. I probably should.

Also, I’ll try to hold back on the reigns of bullshit writing….

HOPE YOU ENJOYED THIS POST!

Bronwyn Green

 

Random Wednesday: Rebels!

Today’s topic: The most rebellious thing you did while growing up.

Wonderful topic, however, I plan on taking those secrets to my grave.

Instead, follow me while I make a tangent to being a “rebel” and picking fights. Now, no one picked a fight with me personally. Not that I would I recommend it. Rather, someone decided to be cheeky on the internet and write a letter which started out, “Dear America.”

This post was forwarded to me from Awesome Jim and Awesome Jim simply asked, “Thoughts on the topic?”

 

DHxB2CJWsAEwVOS (1)

My immediate reaction?

download

And here, readers, is my response:

Dear Britain,

In response to your picture in question of an useless mug with your useless monarch (Edward VIII is it not?) seems slightly, ironic. America is a country of intrigue, beauty, and is quite sexy even with a sloppy history. Edward VIII has experience in this himself falling in love, and leaving his seat on the throne, for our lovely Wallis Simpson.  
But I digress, while Britain is full of history far more grandeur than America ours will always be passionate, more exciting, and eye catching to our distant and somewhat jealous cousins across the pond. Our history is also fresh in the minds for us who live here and this is how I know the following:
Edward VIII abdicated in 1936. 
The Confederate statues in question were all erected in the late 1800’s.
I applaud your effort in wit but as always the old chap, a wee bit rusty on execution. 
Sincerely yours,
The United States of America
Will Mr. Lopez see this? Probably not. The fact that this situation involves two individuals with very clearly Spanish sir names having a dick measuring contest about which Anglo-Saxon based country is better is not lost on me either.
To this I say let’s all raise a glass of sangria and a toast:
May today’s troubles teach us to get our heads out of our ass, it’s not a hat. Tomorrow may we encourage others to seek education and vote wisely because between Brexit and Trump, this shit is bananas. In the wise words of Mr. Lopez, together let’s “get a fucking grip.” 
Cheers to you and my mates.

Random Wednesday: Favorite Writing Advice

Favorite writing advice…

At this point in the game I’ve definitely gone out seeking any writing advice I can get.

It starts out with your closest friends, “I am thinking about writing a book but my ability to spell is embarrassing. Like, my-fly-has-been-open-all-day-and-no-one-said-anything embarrassing.” Here is where you get that advice to go for it, don’t worry about your weaknesses. It’s a process. You’ll figure it out. And on some level, you do.

Then it’s time to branch out a bit. You start to visit a mix of blogs, professional sites, look up articles, subscribe to one or two. Maybe pick up a book or a few. It’s about this point I learned about writers groups and saw in more than one source that writers groups are helpful. So you join a writers group.

First meeting, you sit down, someone comments on your shirt and INSTANT FRIENDS! In addition to making friends, you are making friends who can give you more, specific writing advice. What books to read for help, how the industry works depending on your goals, options you might not have know about to try, websites to check out, publishers to avoid, and the advice here goes on and on. But that’s just the people, we also have guest speakers to cover specific topics of interest.

Then there are the writers conferences. A full day of just people telling you what to do and how to do it. ADVICE OVERLOAD!

Here is the thing: It takes all of the above to find good advice. It’s a combination of these things and your skill level to figure out what piece of advice has real value to you.

“Show, don’t tell.” – That piece of advice I ran into a million times and it probably took me a year or more to actually understand what it meant. I had to see a passage with a scene being “told” before it clicked. It’s popular advice that’s not really advice. It’s like saying “Don’t write shit.”

“Watch what tense you are writing in, you jump back and forth from past to present.” – I’m terrible at this and the first time I got this piece of advice was from a person on a forum. A complete stranger gave me this critique before my friends did, but I also want to give me friends credit. Two of them DID tell me I have a bad writing habit eventually which is exactly the kind of friends I want to have. This is the type of the feed back that will make me a better writer and that’s the best kind of advice. Most importantly, it’s advice I had to seek out, I wasn’t going to find it in a book.

“Write every day.” “Push yourself.” “Practice.” “Make goals, set challenges.” “Write now, edit later.”- Burn yourself out. Stress yourself about goals. Write crap for the sake of a word count and pull out your hair during the editing process because you’re trying to polish something that looks like the literary depiction of what your cat threw up under your bed a week ago. This advice makes writing sound easy. The story will tell itself if you just put words on a page. Well, the truth is somewhere in that mess of advice. If you want to write, you need to write. How you do it is up to you. It’s not all bad advice, it just depends how you use it and if it works for you.

I wish I could say I had a favorite or one thing I found useful, I don’t. I have note books full of notes, copies of presentations, highlighted books, bookmarked articles and websites, and simple stored to memory advice from conversations with friends. All of these things are helping me to become a better writer.

What then would be my advice to others?

Never stop looking for advice.

 

My compliments to the following advice givers and their awesome shirts:

Jessica Jarman (Side note: I’ve been made aware there was some Jessica email confusion involving coloring pages. While the guilty party won’t be mentioned, here is a special coloring page so you don’t feel left out.)

Bronwyn Green

Gwendolyn Cease

Deelylah Mullin

 

 

 

Random Wednesday: Top 10 Lessons I learned from my Parents

Oh…this is going to be splendid.

The late 70’s was a weird time. Yes, this is how I am choosing to address why my parents are my parents and the decisions they made which leads to the lessons they shared.

The only good decision they made is me, if you want my honest opinion. Most of the decisions they made were pretty poor. Mom could have worn a bra in her wedding photos. Dad’s mustache never reached the epicness of Tom Sellecks though I give him credit for trying. Both could have curved the amount of marriages they had. But hey, it was the 70’s. Love, feathered hair, and polyester was in the air! Wise decisions, not so much.

Parent Lesson #1: Don’t listen to mom.
Mom quote, “Only single woman go to college. Girls like you, who have a boyfriend, don’t. Let him go to college and support you because I’m sure before too long you’ll be married. Then shortly after I’m sure there will be kids. Maybe some community college in the mean time. But I don’t understand why you need to go to college. You already have everything you need.”

Yeah, just don’t listen to mom. But the above quote is one of my all time favorites. One of the many times I asked, “Do you listen to yourself when you talk?” We realized neither of us do.

Parent Lesson #2: The only good cat is a dead cat. 
Dad said that one. A little dry piece of advice, I’ll admit, but cat’s are great when they aren’t yours.

Sorry Potter if you are reading this. You’re a cat, so you probably aren’t. But I’m sorry none the less.

Cats pee. They always pee. If you own a cat, you will find cat pee some place it doesn’t belong. No one will tell you this. No one wants to admit they have a cat pee issue. No one wants to be a cat pee person. But while dogs will change their behavior or have noticeable physical changes when there is an emotional or physical issue – cats don’t.

They communicate by pee.

Unless they are hungry. Then they will meow in random intervals to drive you crazy much like water torture.

Most of the time they just pee on something and it’s up to you to find it and then connect the dots that something is wrong. It could be an infection, could be a serious illness, it could be because they don’t like the brand of litter you bought three months ago that has since been long gone. Whatever the reason. Cats are assholes. Cute, cuddly, pee monsters.

Parent Lesson #3: It keep rabbits from eating plants, cut chicken wire and place it around the plant.
While I appreciate this piece of advice from my dad, I have just decided not to plant any flowers. If it comes to the point of chicken wire, just let the rabbits win and then don’t plant more. Rabbits: 1, Jessica 0.

Parent Lesson #4: Know the difference between a clove of garlic and a bulb of garlic.
Worst lasagna ever.

Parent Lesson #5: It’s okay to stretch the truth in a professional matter.
Like how my title says there are 10 things but really there are only 5. But you know what, I’m still going to give myself a little credit here because I made half a post which is saying a lot since I didn’t post in all of April.

giphy

Here are the other bloggers! I bet most of them have at least 10 items on their list. They are slightly more reliable.

Jessica Jarman

Kellie St. James

Bronwyn Green

Paige Prince

Deelylah Mullin

 

 

Random Wednesday: My Memoir

The question, “What would you title your memoir and why?”

I have thought about this for several days now and the answer is still, “I have no idea.” This is what I’ve roughed out so far.

My Family of Dicks: Not a Detective Story 

“Imperial Troops Have Entered The Base” and Other Phrases Spoken When Toddlers Interrupt Poop Breaks

Titty Sprinkles and Twitter, That Time I Should Have Thought Things Out More

Surviving In The STEM Field While Too Cheap To Buy A Graphing Calculator

Jessica, Jessica, Jessica, Jessica, Jessica and Other Popular Names of the 1980’s

Okay, I am sure if the day ever comes where I write a memoir, it will have purpose and be personal. I read Carrie Fisher’s The Princess Diarist and I felt that sure, if I wrote what was happening at my life at the age of 19 it would have looked very much the same. A confusing world of love affairs and career paths. A perspective mixed of adult logic and complex new emotions. But everyone knows what it’s like to be 19. What made her memoir interesting is who the people were and what that career path turned into. Otherwise, it would have been a normal experience. Mostly. I haven’t read her others but I assume they are just as personal.

Currently I am reading Night by Elie Wiesel. Now, while I could read story after story and watch film after film about the Holocaust, I have not learned anything new in a long time. Every story is horrifying, heartbreaking, and amazing example of survival. Still, I read and watch all of it. It’s an obsession. These are stories meant to be told, read, and never forgotten. Even if you know exactly what you are getting into when you open the book.

What’s my contribution? Well, I’m a pretty average person. There are ups, downs, and some complexities but I don’t think that makes me unique or memoir worthy. For now, when it comes to memoirs I think I’ll stay the reader instead of the writer.

If there is ever a day I become famous enough for my memoir to be in demand, I will be sure to go into detail about having seven siblings of mixed biological parentage,  deciding to pursue a career in a heavily male dominated field, and why saying “Cowabunga Dude” to the pizza delivery guy does not actually get you a free pizza as much as your sister insists it does.

08a1d21e-a8a8-4039-92e3-93b59cd9cbeb

Thanks for reading and here are the other future memoir writers:

Bronwyn Green

Jessica Jarman

Deelylah Mullin

Gwendolyn Cease

Kellie St. James

 

Promptly Penned: Three More Days Of This

It’s that time of the month for Promptly Penned where myself and several others write a short story based off the same prompt. The prompt is “Three more days of this.”

This months authors are:

Bronwyn Green

Jessica Jarman

Deelylah Mullin

Kris Norris

Enjoy!

________________________________________________________

She was on the phone talking to her boyfriend and didn’t know what was about to happen. Given, I didn’t know either but all the pieces presented themselves and I’m opportunistic at times of extreme boredom. By this point, I don’t know how long my sister had been on the phone or even how she was paying for the call. The payphone was in a room with a function yet to be determined, full of construction equipment, paint buckets, pieces of lumber, and dry wall. Beth had pushed some boxes next to the phone but her short legs didn’t quite get her butt to the top. She had to climb up to sit on her perch. Legs tangling below her kicking the box side as she talked. Her boyfriend was still at home up north in Michigan with the spring air and mud. We were stuck in Florida with thick wet air and suffocating heat. Not that it was really suffocating to those native to Florida. But for young Michiganders, it was insufferable and sticky.

“Now, isn’t this beautiful?” My Mom asked.

“Yeah, it’s nice.” We lied.

As an adult I would feel differently about Florida beaches. As a preteen kid, it smelled of dead fish and old people sweat.

Beth felt the same. She was excited to be in Florida at first, where I was more in the state of mind where I craved entertainment or home. There was no middle ground of relaxing, sun bathing, or reading a good book. That would come later in life. But Beth was more accepting to a new view away from home. Only a day if I had to put a time on it, just one single day. Then Beth became about as insufferable as the heat and the construction in the condo we were staying at. She would go into bouts of refusing to talk to anyone or whining non-stop. This happened due to her trying to get a tan to show off to her boyfriend at home and then getting sunburned to the point of turning into an angry red tomato.

Mom didn’t care much. She was there to enjoy herself. This meant while she was drinking pool side we were stuck in the condo listening to constant drilling and sawing while trying to watch local TV that seemed foreign and odd. It’s not as if other states don’t have car dealership commercials. It’s just Michigan commercials had better jingles than Florida. So while Beth lathered herself in aloe and watched strange TV, I wondered the building. This is both how I got stuck on the construction floor and found the payphone. The construction workers seemed very unsettled to see a child with extreme proportions of arms and legs with nothing else standing in the middle of a cloud of dust confused to how she got there and where the elevator went. The payphone, which I found on a different floor entirely, didn’t give me any odd looks.

I thought Beth would be excited to hear I found a payphone and I’m was pretty sure we could manage enough change between the two of us for her to call her boyfriend. I was right and she couldn’t wait to talk to him right away. She talked to him first and then let me talk to him for a few minutes too. You would have thought we were stranded on an island and he was our first human contact in years rather than, a days drive straight down I-75 and we’d only been gone for only two days at this point.

Beth called her boyfriend every night. My Mom was gone to hang out with her friends doing who knows what. I had nothing but sweaty armpits and a new smell I wasn’t used to before now. It wasn’t fair to be honest. I get this was suppose to be Mom’s get away. I get that Beth is homesick and boyfriend crazy. But what am I suppose to do?

Annoy my sister, obviously. And it just so happened that while Beth was on an endless phone conversation, she didn’t notice the lizard about the size of her forearm crawling on the ceiling above her. Nor did she notice that I happened to acquire a long piece of wood from the construction material just long enough to reach the ceiling. In fact, Beth was so engrossed in her, “I love you’s” and “I miss you’s” she didn’t see me gently nudge the lizard on the ceiling with the long piece of wood.

The lizard freaking out and falling from the ceiling was completely unplanned. I was just trying to get it to move enough to catch Beth’s attention. The lizard falling and landing on Beth was again an unplanned, but hilarious event. She screamed and screamed and screamed. I don’t know who was more upset the about the situation, the lizard or Beth because both ended up running around the room and bumping into boxes and buckets making a lot of noise. This was about the time in the vacation I thought, “You know, I could handle three more days of this.” Beth might not have agreed but, that’s her problem.