Sunday, June 28, 2009

Published June 28, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Naked Mohawk-baby carrot jockeys!
If these words mean anything to you, then you are one of a legion of fans of Cake Wrecks, the award winning humor blog that gleefully chronicles what happens “when professional cakes go horribly, hilariously wrong.” If you’re not a fan, you should be.
The link is The blogger is Jen Yates. The aforementioned carrot jockeys are babies…tiny, plastic, naked, babies with tiny, plastic, Mohawks…inexplicably positioned astride frosting carrots on top of a carrot cake. Why? The world may never know, and according to Jen, we probably don’t want to.
The hilarity continues, from a picture of a life-sized and somewhat frightening cake effigy of a bride to a passel of cakes with literal mistakes like, “I Want Sprinkles” written in icing on the top. Add to that creepily lifelike newborn baby cakes (which admirers are supposed to chop up and eat) and you have the makings of a really good time.
Being a fan of Cake Wrecks has its perks, but it isn’t all laughter and hilarity. There’s hard work to be done. The photos of cake wreckage don’t just appear on the blog like magic. They’re sent in by dedicated “Wreckporters” from all over the country who are either the unfortunate recipients of “wrecktastic” cakes or who put in a few hours a week of their time, scouring bakery shelves for blog fodder.
I want to be a Wreckporter.
I want it more than I want chocolate. I want it more than I want syndication or education or vindication or, uh, fluoridation. My name is published in this newspaper every week for thousands of people to see. My published work is in your hands every Sunday morning, and all I want in the world is to see an italicized, “Thanks to Wreckporter, Sarah C!” posted on that blog beneath the “wrecktacular” cake I found for Jen.
As an aspiring Wreckporter, I stop by the bakery section of every grocery store I enter, hoping to snap furtive photos of frosted disasters with my camera phone and email them to Jen. So far, my attempts have been thwarted by the talent and English language skills of the local decorating workforce. Store after store, all I see are beautifully decorated cakes. I’ve been known to throw myself across a bakery display case, yelling, “My kingdom for a cupcake catastrophe!”
I’ve considered ordering a cake wreck on purpose (something die hard fans are known to do for fun on holidays). Knowing my luck, I’d specifically request a cake that says, “Hapy Britday Mom with hearts and roses” and some overly educated bakery manager would cluck her tongue in pity and fix my “mistake” to save me from embarrassment.
If I can’t find a wreck to submit, the other option is to become a “Wreckorater” and create one myself. It wouldn’t be hard. My one and only foray into cake decorating happened at a Wednesday night meeting of my church youth group when I was a teen. I listened during the lesson, looked at my round, layer cake, panicked and covered it in spikes of yellow frosting. I told my leaders it was the sun and represented the love of God on the earth. They huffed about my negative attitude and forced me to cover my cake with a very questionable likeness of Barney instead. I smashed it with a hammer when I got home.
Of course, according to the Cake Wrecks submission rules, the only way a wreck of my own creation can be submitted is if I go pro. I’ll have to get myself a job at a grocery store bakery, start pumping out wrecks, and hope some hardworking Wreckporter sees my stuff before I’m thrown from the building and told to never come back. If I see my cake in all its glory on that blog, it will all be worth it.
If Jen commissions a cake to commemorate getting a restraining order instead…well…that works too.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Published June 21, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Happy Father’s Day to all the Dads out there! I hope you’ve had a day filled with love, appreciation, family togetherness, and MAN GIFTS.

When I say MAN GIFTS, there’s a very specific voice I want you to hear in your mind. It’s definitely a MAN VOICE. I’ve been trying to approximate it all week in preparation for this column, much to the amusement of my husband. You’ve heard it before. “MONDAY! MONDAY! MONDAY! MONSTER TRUCK RALLY!” Only this time, it’s saying, “SUNDAY! SUNDAY! SUNDAY! FATHER’S DAY AND TIME FOR MAN GIFTS!”

MAN GIFTS come in two varieties. First, you have the big, loud, and scary MAN GIFTS which are highly likely to sever a limb or two if used improperly or under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or the misplaced manly ego. The other variety is made up of the small, sleek, and shiny gifts that are usually covered in buttons and ports and are often linked to satellites. While not deadly in and of themselves, these gifts can prove fatal to the unfortunate man who thinks owning a GPS system is equivalent to being James Bond.

Since it’s Father’s Day, I’ve got MAN GIFTS on the brain. This is not because I bought my husband a MAN GIFT for Father’s Day. It’s because advertisers across the country think I should have bought him a MAN GIFT for Father’s Day. “What better way to show Dad you care than with a Manford 72 Bit Power Drill with Flamethrower Attachment and GPS Locater?”

I don’t really mind advertisers. I know they’re real people with families and bills to pay. Their livelihood depends on whether or not they can make the average consumer think he’ll bring shame and misfortune upon his family if he doesn’t buy the product of the moment. If the combination remote control/garage door opener/nose hair trimmer with GPS locater the marketer is promoting doesn’t sell, little Timmy will have to miss soccer camp this year. I feel for Timmy. I do.

I just wonder how much of American consumerism is the product of a highly organized “Emperor’s New Clothes” situation. Do men really want MAN GIFTS or are they conditioned to want MAN GIFTS because advertisers say they should want MAN GIFTS? Would you want to be the lone man on the block saying, “Nah, I just don’t think I need the Gadgetron 3000. It’s not practical. I’d much rather have a hand knitted tea cozy.”

When I ran the previous line past my husband, he just shrugged and asked me what a tea cozy was. “Aha!” I shouted in triumph, “You see how deep it runs? You pretend to not know what a tea cozy is because men aren’t supposed to know what tea cozies are! The emperor’s clothes are very fine, aren’t they?” He stared at me patiently until I gave in and explained the concept of a hand knitted cover for a teapot and then harrumphed myself to sleep.

I’m sure the men among my readership (both of you! Hi guys!) will say that there are equivalent Woman Gifts (think the soothing singing voice behind “Every kiss begins with Kay”) that rival the cost and impracticality of MAN GIFTS. I don’t disagree. Advertisers push jewelry, cosmetics, and trips to the day spa on women-centered holidays. The difference is that women need and deserve such treatment simply for being who they are.

I don’t know why the emperor is naked, but the empress is looking fabulous in that gown!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Published June 14, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

Two weeks ago, I bought 6 and a half dozen eggs at the local wholesale store. I usually only buy the big case of five dozen, but I threw on the extra 18 pack in a fit of what I thought was genius. “This will make them last longer,” I thought to myself, thoroughly satisfied with my ingenuity. They were gone in a week and a half.

As I stood in my kitchen and surveyed the empty box of eggs, I looked to my children for the answer to the mystery. Four of them stepped forward and responded in unison: “Ray!”

My oldest child has half a year until he can officially call himself a teenager, and it seems his appetite is not willing to wait. I make sure he gets a full, balanced diet of meals and snacks, and he makes sure he gets a full, balanced diet of meals and snacks in addition to that.

The boy wakes up early in the morning to eat, steps away from family activities and play time to eat, and lies awake in his bed at night so he can sneak into the kitchen and eat after my husband and I have gone to bed. At any given moment, my house smells distinctly of fried eggs, cinnamon toast, quesadillas, and ramen noodles. If my house tasted like microwaveable chimichangas, I think he would literally eat us out of house and home.

About a week ago, we had lasagna for dinner, which happens to be Ray’s favorite. Every few bites were punctuated by anxious shouts. “Don’t take it all!” “What? She gets more?” “Hey! I was going to have that!” When I reminded him he was already on his third helping while most of the family had only eaten a first, his head snapped up and he said, eyes wide with panic, “I’ll be able to get fourths, right?”

It was at this point in this column that I realized my son might not enjoy having his adventures in food published in the pages of a newspaper for both friends and strangers to read. Pulling Ray away from his fifth snack of the morning, I read the preceding paragraphs to him and formally asked him if I could submit this to my editor. His response: “Ooooh! Can we have lasagna tonight?”

I really don’t mind that he eats as much as he does. I understand that puberty is upon us (I’m going to hide under my bed and cry when that actually hits me) and he needs all these extra calories to grow. He’s reaching the stage in life at which boys outgrow their mothers (I’m going to kick and scream and punch the dust bunnies under my bed when that actually hits me) and that stage requires a man sized appetite.

I just wish I had planned better for this. If we’re going to go through 223 eggs in one month (and I haven’t even mentioned the amount of bread, fruit, tortillas, and cheese the kid puts away), we’re going to have to increase our grocery budget significantly. I should have started socking money away in a CD or mutual fund when he was a baby. At the very least, I could have put him to work delivering papers or mowing lawns when he was five or six to build up a teen appetite savings.

For now, I’m coming up with ideas for how to feed this growing boy without selling one of the cars or resorting to a life of crime. So far, I’ve got “Pray for raises” and “Shop at the dollar store” on the list. Nothing else is forthcoming.

I had “Save money by giving up chocolate” on the list, but I took it off because it’s just not practical.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Published June 7, 2009
St. George Spectrum & Daily News

LAST DAY OF SCHOOL! I’m bouncing in my computer chair. It’s the LAST DAY OF SCHOOL! I’m counting minutes until 1:30, when my children will officially be home for the summer. LAST DAY OF SCHOOL! I’m dangerously close to incontinence. DID I MENTION IT’S THE LAST DAY OF SCHOOL?

Excuse my enthusiasm. I’ve been doing the last week of school limbo since Monday, trying to find ways to occupy my time while nearly bursting with ambitious summer plans I can’t put in place until school is out. At this writing, it is now Friday and the LAST DAY OF (whoops, sorry, need to stop doing that)…ahem, school has ended.

This is a good day. There’s nothing like Beginning of Summer Delusions of Grandeur (true condition…look it up!) to make a gal feel like she’s on top of the world. When it comes to summer, I’m like a hungry kid in an all-you-can-eat-buffet. My eyes are bigger than my, summer.

I don’t know about other moms, but when I’m looking out over the vast and beautiful expanse of nearly three months of summer vacation, I see nothing of the mundane day to day responsibilities that fill every other month of the year. I see 77 perfect days to fill with fun and family togetherness.

Sure, every other day I spend hours on dishes, laundry, errands, and lawn care. But this is summer! Summer is magic! What? Yes, I know I still have a full time job. What’s that got to do with anything? We’re talking magic, people! MAGIC!

As of this moment, my summer plans include nearly daily trips to the park, weekly hiking, swimming, and barbecuing, twice monthly trips to museums, concerts, and other free kid activities, and a week-long family trip to Music Arts and Technology camp in Evanston, WY. In addition to all that, we plan to garden, repaint the kitchen cupboards, strip, sand, and carve walking sticks for each of us, and create a craft room in which my children can become the next great modern artists. And let’s not forget the many family festivities we have planned for the release of the new Harry Potter movie.

Having experienced this rash of planning at the beginning of many a summer vacation, I can tell you it’s never really worked out the way I hoped it would. By the end of summer, I’m usually looking over my list and thinking, oh…right…we were going to do some of this stuff. There’s usually a mad dash to make it up the final week before school starts again, but the enthusiasm is kind of gone by that point.

This year, however, things are going to be different! Yes, I understand I say that every year. What YOU don’t understand is that this time, I MEAN it! This time, we have weekly family meetings in which the kids hold us accountable for our promises. This time, we have a calendar prominently displayed in the dining room. This time, we’re really serious. If we don’t do it, I will eat this column!

I’ll eat it at our Harry Potter themed hike/barbecue swim party at a museum in Evanston, but I’ll eat it!