Bonus! Unless your clock runs on military time, or you live outside the US****, on this very special Pi day, you get to celebrate twice.*****
* Did you know that everybody's birthday appears in the number Pi? Mine is at digit 70,113. Find your birthday in Pi here.
** Explained wonderfully here, with five more drool-worthy pie recipes, on the always tasty Shockingly Delicious blog.
*** Literally, I weigh a ton.
**** Pi Day never happens in countries that put the day first in their dates. America rules.
***** At 9:26:53 a.m. and p.m. Not to mention that you can have mini celebrations at 1:59:26 a.m. and p.m. as well, like people do on non-monumental Pi days. While you're at it, have an extra slice for Albert Einstein. It's his birthday today.
I almost did it again this year. I had the facebook post all typed up, humbly asking friends to click through and tell the world* that Cheesy Pennies is The Best.
Then I stopped.
When I started blogging, almost six years ago now, all I wanted was a place to keep track of what I cooked and the little incidents in my life that might otherwise slip by unremarked. That said, as much as I wish I were immune from the craving for readers** and recognition, I'm not. Part of the deal when you put work out into the world is the hope that someone other than you is there to receive it. To love it, too.
Mission accomplished, and more.
Yes, I found a space to save recipes, but I also found a space for my voice. There are posts here full of farce-worthy silliness, and some with simple ideas and quick notes on a weeknight meal. I cook and serve food from my own website all the time, and have had an extremely low level of complaints from the beneficiaries. My mother lived and died and lives here still, and I'm so grateful for that. This keyboard has been covered with tears and flour and magazine clippings and cat hair while I type, edit, and shape the stories I want to tell. The process is liberating and draining and addictive. I get to write and write and write, but only when I have something to say, and then hopefully I say just enough. It's huge when someone lets me know, "I made that," or simply, "I read your blog."
I am absurdly proud of this work that is not my job. Cheesy Pennies is well loved and oft-used by friends, family and even people I've never met out there on the invisible Internet. It is personal and I love sharing it. It is mine. It is good.
That title should belong to one of these amazing sites:
Lady and Pups - Jaw-dropping photos, completely original recipes, and a wise-cracking, genuine and riotous writing style. A recent post, Pan Grilled Marshmallow Toasts with Sea Salt had this quote: "Some say wonderful things are born out of desperation. Before today I’ve always thought they were talking about spandex." A New Yorker transplanted to Beijing, her recipes often involve complicated, multi-step preparations, but she somehow makes you feel you can almost pull them off. A finalist last year in the photography category.
Dash and Bella - The honest, devastatingly beautiful writing on this site makes me lose my breath almost every time. In a few well chosen words you understand the loss of a grandmother, the swift passage of childhood, the need to scream into a pillow or guzzle wine or curl up a fist and stay quiet. It's almost unfair that her recipes are ridiculously good, too. How one couples getting a drug fix from a neighbor kid with a pecan cheese ball recipe, I'll never know, but she does it perfectly. She has a book in the works and I am going to buy it the instant it comes out.
5 Second Rule - Reader's choice last year for Best Writing, and deservedly so. There is just one photo per post (usually stunning on a dark background), so the words shine. On my very very good days, my posts would be like these. I loved a New Years piece where introduces her desk: "It's a cherry slab with a deep gouge. It weighs a ton. It dates back to my grad school days in Somerville, Massachusetts. Today, and every day, it's littered with papers, with news clippings, with stacks of fluorescent post-its. I neaten it often, but within seconds, it reverts to its natural state. One can only do so much." The recipes are simple, lovely combinations of good ingredients that anyone can make.
Bev Cooks - One of the few breezy "we're all best girl friends here" type blogs that I truly find funny and entertaining on a regular basis. This woman has a gift for natural, seemingly effortless comedy, and her food is both approachable and tasty, a winning combination. Typical recipe intro:
I see your dinner and raise you CUBAN SLIDERS.
Let me just start by saying two things. Three things. A few things:
There will never be enough articulation in any universe to describe my immortal devotion to these sliders.
Obviously I didn’t invent this recipe, but I did tweak a couple o’ thangs to Bevi-botch it.
We were supposed to get snow last night and all it did was shoot a rainy snot rocket and call it a day.
My coffee’s stronger than usual.
Glazed and Confused - There's been a run of young stars emerging in the food blogging world, including an English high-schooler with a global following and a brand new cookbook. But this one's actually a wunderkind, in my mind. A 20 year old self-confessed One Direction maniac, this kid made himself a chicken & waffles birthday cake, and I kinda wanted to eat all of it. 'Nuff said.
I don't personally know the creators of these sites, but I feel like I do. They are opinionated and talented and generous with themselves online, which is what makes their work compelling and excellent. They have legions of anonymous fans like me because they deserve them. There are other sites, too, that I recommend to you for the very same reasons. Joy the Baker. Displaced Housewife. Movita Beaucoup. Food for the Thoughtless. All of the links on the sidebar there are well worth your time to click through and read. Not to mention last year's blog of the year - it is simply sensational.
So no. I'm not going to humbly ask you to nominate Cheesy Pennies this year. I'm going to humbly thank you for reading instead***.
* Well, to tell the online editors at a certain food magazine that I don't even subscribe to that Cheesy Pennies is The Best.
** They should just not include a "web stats" tab in the blogging software. Then my paltry traffic would be out of sight, out of mind.
*** Plus, I already won a bunch of other stuff, so I can be noble and realistic at the same time.
For those days, and for someone I love very much who is having a particularly cat-barf-y time of it right now, there are these No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Nut Butter Instant Happiness Treats.
I found the recipe online, and made a batch almost on a whim. But the minute I took a bite, I was immediately transported back to a summer during elementary school. I'd been sent away to a science and nature camp for city kids with a bunch of people I didn't know and they were all really mean to me. I hated everything about it...the dingy bunks, the creepy-crawly woods, and the smelly labs, but more than anything, I loathed the girls I was grouped with. I was utterly miserable the entire time, except for one day, near the end of camp, when the cafeteria ladies served these exact same treats at lunch. I vividly remember the taste and how happy I was, just for a minute, to be eating something so delicious in the midst of that horrible place. I swear these saved me by making the experience, if not good, at least bearable.
I polished off my treat. Only the happiness and none of the hurt came back to me. Life really is good sometimes.
Believe me, I do not wish the horrors of pre-teen peer ostracism or any other kind of emotional turmoil on anyone**, but just in case, it's good to be able to make your own instant ray of hope out of chocolate, peanut butter, and sugar***. While you're waiting for the pain to fade away with time (and getting that inbox cleared out) these will definitely tide you over very nicely.
P.S. If you are truly having a tough day, I found watching this video made me ridiculously cheerful. As in, howling with laughter. Via Kottke.
Thursday marked the start of the Lunar New Year, and like many other people sitting in the bathroom that morning, I heard the lighthearted story on NPR about the varying English translations of this year's animal.
I, of course, would have left it there, but in the comments on that story, there was a link to a super cool website that is having people vote for the representative animal candidate of their choice.
I voted for Goat. He's a rebel*. The creators of the site are making donations on all behalf of all the animals to Heifer International, so every vote really does count. Go vote, and let me know who you picked!
So I'm now fully in the spirit of the whole thing, and had some time on my hands because it was raining in Los Angeles and we were all confined to our homes**. I decided to celebrate the Lunar New Year by making homemade Chinese shu mai dumplings and potstickers.***
Ram they were good.
In fact, they were baaaaaaantastic.
Goat thing this celebration only happens once a year.
I think my husband is going to take the radio out of the bathroom now****.
Before we can all go happily off to Valentine's Day and declare victory and love and chocolate tomorrow, we have to survive today. I'm not a superstitious person, but even I get a little nervous about Friday the 13th.
Per Wikipedia, according to the Stress Management Center and Phobia Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, an estimated 17 to 21 million people in the United States are affected by a fear of this day, making it the most feared day and date in history. They even have a name for this debilitating situation: Paraskevidekatriaphobia.
The word alone is terrifying*.
So here's the plan. Let's hunker down, stay in, read a good book, and have some super safe soup today.
All The Light We Cannot See - Anthony Doerr
The tale of a blind refugee from Paris and a young German radio operator during WWII. Magical.
Everything I Never Told You - Celeste Ng
Heartbreaking story about the weight of things unsaid in a family. The writing will grab you and make you weep.
We are All Completely Beside Ourselves - Karen Joy Fowler
Don't read anything about this book. Just read it. Wow!
The Martian - Andy Weir
Pure, sci-fi fun. I listened to this one and enjoyed every minute.
Ready Player One - Ernest Kline
One massive global live video game for all the marbles. With Monty Python and Rush references. What more can you ask for?
The Silkworm - Robert Galbraith (actually JK Rowling)
The PI at the heart of this book, along with the very good first one in the series, The Cuckoo's Calling, is a fascinating character, and the mystery keeps you guessing.
The Storied Life of AJ Fikry - Gabreille Zevin
I'm a sucker for a good book about a bookstore. This is one.
Not My Father's Son: A Memoir - Alan Cumming
Holy shit what a story! If, like me, you only know him from Masterpiece Theater on PBS or as Eli Gold, this is an eye opener. He narrates the Audible version...highly recommended!
A Tale for the Time Being - Ruth Ozeki
I loved loved loved this book. Clever, funny, tragic, and above all unique. The voice of the main character will stay with me always.
The Narrow Road to the Deep North - Richard Flanagan
A harrowing story of a POW in Japan, stunningly well told.
Big Little Lies - Liane Moriarty
If you've ever hung out with a group of gossipy parents in kindergarden, this is the book for you. Is it great literature? No. Is it a little heavy handed at times? Sure. Is it damn entertaining? You bet.
Creamy, slightly spicy soup full of turkey sausage meatballs, kale and a little bit of nubby rice. Enriched with white beans and incredibly good for you. Even if the rest of your day is unsettling, this should be 100% risk free.
Let's read, eat this soup, and if we make it through the night, we defy the gods and shout about love from the rooftops tomorrow.