Archive for the ‘If I May Just Say’ Category

Vegan Chocolate Cake

Monday, August 12th, 2013

This is the vegan chocolate cake that I adore, perhaps more than any other cake in the world, vegan or no. I’d made it as a single-layer and a double-layer cake before, but never in triple. And it worked!

Triple-Layer Madness

Triple-Layer Madness

True, it’s sitting on an ugly plastic cake-saver base, but I think we can look beyond that.

Here’s a view from farther back:

Trois Coleurs

Trois Coleurs

Bonus: triple-color action among our dining room, foyer, and living rooms! For those of you requesting photos of the newly painted teal living room, this is as close as we’re getting, given that there’s currently no furniture in the room that is blog-worthy.

And here’s what the cake looked like as a slice (a la mode, BUT OF COURSE):



And the following day, post-dinner-party:



Please excuse those unsightly scrapings on the plate. I didn’t plan well for this photoshoot.

I’m surprised to say that it took me (and John, and our renter-friend, and our roofers) (but mostly me) (basically almost totally me) a full 6 days to get through this.

Also, I wish there were more.

The Tiniest Little (but, in my View, Important) Quibble with Something Otherwise Unerringly Excellent

Friday, August 2nd, 2013

In general and like pretty much everyone else, I am 100% in favor of George Saunders. He is not merely a genius at writing fiction but also a genius at being a person, at least according to a) the people I know who know him, and b) everything he says in interviews. By all accounts, he’s a superlative guy who spreads kindness everywhere, and I would like to hug him. And thank him. And give him a vegan chocolate cake. Or a smoothie! Would he prefer a smoothie?

But if I may just say . . .

Perhaps you’ve seen his charming, funny, incredibly wise commencement address that is currently making the rounds? I am a fan of this genre, if for no other reason than that I have always fantasized about giving a commencement address myself—and, interestingly to me (and probably nobody else) is the fact that what I would say in said commencement address has changed throughout the years. Anyway, point being, I’ve read quite a few of them, and Saunders’ is my favorite. By a million points. He wins!

I have just the tiniest little quibble.

And that is this. Saunders’ basic thesis is that he has one sure thing to recommend, and that is being kind. More kindness in the world is good for everyone, including (perhaps especially) the person being kind; he even slips a little Buddhism in by talking about how we’re all connected, and how we all very deeply want to feel that connection, even when our egos steer us toward solipsism and selfishness. He also makes it clear that being kind is difficult, and he supplies some very good strategies for how to go about it. Here’s an excerpt:

So, the second million-dollar question:  How might we DO this?  How might we become more loving, more open, less selfish, more present, less delusional, etc., etc?

Well, yes, good question.

Unfortunately, I only have three minutes left.

So let me just say this.  There are ways.  You already know that because, in your life, there have been High Kindness periods and Low Kindness periods, and you know what inclined you toward the former and away from the latter.  Education is good; immersing ourselves in a work of art: good; prayer is good; meditation’s good; a frank talk with a dear friend;  establishing ourselves in some kind of spiritual tradition – recognizing that there have been countless really smart people before us who have asked these same questions and left behind answers for us.

Can you guess, already, what I’m thinking? Here’s what I’m thinking. He left out working with your feelings (sometimes known as therapy). He left out the very important fact that being kind is often (perhaps most often) difficult because we have feelings that are getting in the way—we’re hurt, or scared, or angry, or embarrassed, or ashamed. We do what we do largely because we are governed by unconscious feelings, but when we make those feelings conscious, and work through them, suddenly we have a lot more choices about how we behave. Also, we feel better—and more connected to others. So we’re just naturally kinder.

All of those other strategies? Excellent and highly recommended. But if you don’t deal with the feelings, those strategies might actually be counter-productive. Because if you rationalize or meditate or pray your way out of feelings, you might be all, “Woo hoo! I love everyone!” at first. But at some point down the line, you might find that those feelings are still actually there, underneath, directing you in ways you haven’t been conscious of . . . until suddenly you are. And that doesn’t feel good at all.

My point is, and you’ve heard me say this before: You can’t get around feelings. You have to actually feel them, and deal with them. And/but that in itself leads to greater kindness.

So I guess you know what my commencement address would be about.