23 July 2009

Come Join Our Party, See How We Play

1969. The year when peace, love and music ruled at Woodstock. The year when Charles Manson would gain infamy. The year when the NY Mets won their first World Series, “Midnight Cowboy” ruled at the box office, The Beatles’ “Come Together” rocked the charts, Sesame Street debuted on TV and Penthouse on the newsstands, the Concorde took its first flight and another Kennedy in the news: this time, young Teddy who drove his car off a bridge in Chappaquiddick.

1969. The year when Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin captured the attention of millions of TV viewers the world over as they walked on the moon. “That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." It was also the year that yours came truly came into the world.

My mother’s due date was in fact 20 July 1969. I was to be born the day the lunar landing module touched down on the moon’s surface. Thankfully I had hunkered down in the uterus and came out 3 days late...barely escaping a fate that would have had me going by the name of “Luna.” No kidding. It’s the name my mom had picked out. Over the years, I have imagined hundreds of times my walk through the school hallways to the shouts of “Hey, here comes looney Luna!” You know how cruel kids can be.

Thankfully, in the days between the moon walk and my actual delivery, my mother happened to watch a film that starred Catherine Deneuve, and in seeing this beautiful actress grace the screen, she decided that would be a fitting first name. Or at least that’s the story as I have heard it.

What have I learned from this story? That try as you might, life will not always go as planned and you need to be flexible and take it all with a grain of salt. That if you are open to it, inspiration will come from the unlikeliest places. And that “One and one and one is three. Got to be good-looking ‘cause he’s so hard to see.”

I’ve also learned a few other things in the 40 years I have lived and loved and dreamed and done on this planet. And in honor of my 40th birthday, I thought I would share them with you, accompanied by some cupcakes I created specially for the occasion: Snickers Cupcakes – Peanut Butter Cupcakes with a Salted Caramel Center, Caramel/Milk Chocolate Ganache and Chopped Peanuts, & Lavender Loves Lemon Celebration Cupcakes for the IC:E July challenge, Herbs(recipe below). These are Lemon Verbena Poppyseed Cupcakes with a Lavender Vanilla Bean Cream Cheese Frosting. And they are delicious! Light, creamy and lemony sweet with a fragrant lavender under-current.

40 Things I Have Learned in My 40 Trips Around the Sun, and Then Some…

1. Childbirth hurts…a lot! Though thankfully the body has a wonderful capacity for forgetting pain. Once they put that bundle of joy down on your chest for the very first time, you’ll be ready to do it all over again.

2. It does get easier the second time around.

3. You can never change a man.

4. Use sunscreen liberally and get that suspicious freckle checked out. It could save your life; it saved mine.

5. Fresh marker can be easily removed from a fabric couch with plain old milk dabbed on the stain with a washcloth.

6. Time really does heal all wounds.

7. Keep xeroxed copies of your (and your family members’) birth certificate, driver’s license, social security card, etc. somewhere safe; it will come in handy one day.

8. If you are renting a property in a remote corner of Italy and you have cat allergies, always make sure to ask if a cat has been living inside the house before reserving and traveling all the way to said location.

9. Nothing brings a smile to someone’s face faster than the gift of cupcakes!

10. It’s true that you can’t pick your family but you can choose your friends. The true ones will be at your side through thick and thin, and when you need them the most. Ditch the others and fast!

11. If a guy can’t be bothered to return your phone calls within a reasonable amount of time, thank you for something nice you’ve done or regularly breaks/”forgets” dates to hang out with his friends, play video games, etc., he’s giving you a hint. Move on!

12. Despite all the tears, time, anguish and nights gone without sleep stressing over your wedding planning, your wedding day will probably be just one long happy blur in the end. Don’t sweat the small stuff.

13. No matter what your age, you can reinvent yourself. If you have a passion, go for it! Realize it on a small scale if a larger scale just isn’t possible. If you apply yourself, you can be anything you dream of being.

14. 20 ounces tomato juice, 6 ounces (pepper) vodka, 2 dashes Tabasco, 1 dash Worcestershire sauce, a pinch celery salt, 2 twists fresh cracked pepper, and juice of 1 lemon. Combine all together with ice and shake. Perfect kick-ass Bloody Mary every time.

15. You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes you just might find you get what you need.

16. Never wake a sleeping baby.

17. Those grates you see in the sidewalk all over Paris? The ones where the exhaust from the subway escapes? Don’t walk over those wearing a skirt unless you want to re-enact that famous Marilyn Monroe moment.

18. No matter how much you are drooling over those Manolo Blahniks, Jimmy Choos, (insert your fetish shoe brand here) that you’ve seen all the stars wear in the celebrity pages this season…the ones you have just found on sale for half price….if they don’t fit properly in the store, they never will. Do your feet (and your wallet) a favor and keep walking.

19. In the US, when you receive a negative response like “No, we can’t do that” or “I’m very sorry but it’s just not possible” it’s usually the end of a conversation. In France, it’s the opening salvo in a negotiation where it‘s more than likely you will ultimately get your way.

20. A lot of it boils down to being in the right place at the right time….and who you know. So get out there as often as you can, and schmooze!

21. The book is usually better than the movie. Though the movie better than the Broadway show.

22. When you are wrong, admit it. And learn from your mistakes! There is nothing more annoying than someone who always tries to put the blame on others, or who keeps doing the same stupid things over and over.

23. Learn how to take a compliment graciously.

24. No one will respect you unless you respect yourself. The same goes for believing in yourself.

25. You can’t cram a semester’s worth of lessons into one night of studying. No matter how much NoDoz you ingest or what your roommates may tell you.

26. 20 (hell even 5!) years after the fact, no one will really care what your major was in college. They in fact might not even care where you went to college. A study published a few years back in Fortune demonstrated the only thing that does matter is that you have a college degree, not where it came from.

27. Always remember, there is no reset button in life.

28. There’s nothing like a good night of sleep to give you a fresh perspective on a dilemma.

29. If you are going to lie, maintain eye contact. A sure give-away is looking up and to the right which indicates you are accessing the creative side of your brain.

30. Always have one great perfect dress at the ready. You never know when you may be invited to a last minute party or when that cute guy from the creative department is going to ask you out.

31. A tattoo is forever; choose your design wisely. If you are going to get inked with your significant other’s name or your favorite motto, for god’s sake, check the spelling on the outline before it’s permanently etched on your body.

32. While the occasional shopping spree may be good mental therapy, don’t live beyond your means. I’ve seen too many friends declare personal bankruptcy (some before the ripe old age of 30) to erase their debt. It’s tragic.

33. It’s never too early to teach your kids proper manners, the value of hard work, the difference between right and wrong, to be altruistic, how to practice good personal hygiene, and a love of baking.

34. Learn how to make one good dish and make it well. I happen to like this one. The same goes for a knock-out cocktail. See #14.

35. Liquor before beer, never fear. Beer before liquor, never sicker!

36. Never show up for a party empty-handed. See #9.

37. Love and be loved. Live and let live!

38. Be grateful for what you have instead of looking with envy at that which others possess. Be generous to those who are less fortunate than you -- remember, what you sow, you reap. I’ve always been a firm believer in what goes around comes around.

39. There is only so much you can blame on your parents, or your dysfunctional home life, or the manner in which you were raised, or that “trauma” that affected you as a teenager. (Like your sister stealing your 9th grade boyfriend, I’m not talking about abuse and other sick, serious crimes people commit against children here). Take responsibility for the person you are today; if you’re not happy with the way you look or a certain behavior you have, etc., stop sniveling, get off the couch and change it! TODAY! You are the master of your own destiny.

40. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow, don’t stop, it’ll soon be here. It’ll be better than before. Yesterday’s gone. Yesterday’s gone.

41. If you have the chance to participate in a study abroad program while in college, do it! If you hate it, you’ll be home when the semester is over but at least you have given yourself the chance to see the world, experience a new culture, learn new customs and flirt in a foreign language!

42. When making baked goods, always use the best quality ingredients you can afford. You really can taste the difference.

43. Strive to learn one new thing every day. Okay, at least once a week if you are lazy like me.

44. Know how to throw a party: invite all your close friends and cool people you want to know better, buy several bottles of bubbly, bake up some cupcakes (or have someone bake them for you!), slip into something sexy and fun, break out your favorite I-pod Playlist and party all night long!

I'm still working on the "learn to age gracefully" bit. My brain is having a hard time processing the fact that I am actually 40 years old today. In my heart and mind, I am still that wild, free-spirited 25 year-old I used to know. Though I guess it is all relative; as my mother-in-law told me yesterday, "Wait until you are 50, 60 or 65 years-old! I would do anything to be 40 again!"

Lavender Loves Lemon Celebration Cupcakes
Makes about 1 Dozen

4 ozs. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1 pinch salt
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/4 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup hot water
1 teabag verbena
2 tsps. poppy seeds

1. Place verbena in the 1/4 cup hot water and allow to steep while you prepare the batter.
2. Cream sugar and butter until light and moussey. Add egg and mix.
3. Add baking soda, salt and vanilla and mix again.
4. Add 1/3 flour and mix. Add 1/2 buttermilk and mix. Alternate adding flour and buttermilk and mixing after each, ending on a flour addition.
5. Discard teabag, add verbena infused water and mix.
6. Mix in lemon zest, juice and poppy seeds.
7. Fill cupcake liners 2/3rds full and place in a 350 degree oven for about 18 minutes. Cupcakes are done when a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.
8. Remove from oven and let cupcakes cool on a grill.

Lavender Cream Cheese Frosting
1/2 stick butter
1 8oz package of cream cheese
1/2 vanilla bean
2-3 cups confectioner's sugar
3-4 drops of purple food coloring
1 tbsp. lavender flowers
1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Heat cream over medium heat, add lavender and allow to sit undisturbed for a few minutes while flowers steep. Remove from heat and let cool 30 minutes, strain cream, discard flowers, set aside.
2. Combine softened butter and cream cheese and mix well.
3. Add about half of the confectioner's sugar and lavender-infused cream to the butter/cream cheese mixture and beat to combine.
4. Using the point of a sharp knife, remove vanilla beans from pod and mix in well.
5. Add remaining confectioner's sugar in stages until desired consistency and sweetness is achieved.
6. Add purple food coloring (I like Wilton's gel) and mix until consistent color is reached.

Last but not least, I am competing for the June ETSY PRIZE-PACK:

* A sweet cupcake ID bracelet by INSANEJELLYFISH
* A delicious treat from CIRCLEMONKEY
* a sweet surprise from Sweet Cuppin' Cakes Cupcakery
* PLUS, IronCupcake:Earth can not forget our good friend, CAKESPY who is now going to be doing a piece for our winner each month until further notice - sweet!

Last and certainly not least, don’t forget our corporate prize providers: HEAD CHEFS by FIESTA PRODUCTS, HELLO CUPCAKE by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson, JESSIE STEELE APRONS, TASTE OF HOME books, and a t-shirt from UPWITHCUPCAKES.COM. Iron Cupcake:Earth is sponsored in part by 1-800-Flowers.


  1. Happy Birthday Cat!
    The lavender cupcakes look great, and taste great too I bet!
    Thank you for sharing your words of wisdom with us, I found them very entertaining and true!

    Hugs <3

  2. Hey Cat - I always LOVE your posts. Happy Birthday!! Joanne

  3. Looking good!! I tried some cupcakes out here-- NOT GOOD! I made some cupcakes here-- YUMM!!!! Hope you are having a nice summer...

  4. Great post for your 40th Cat!! And always remember that you are only as old as you feel - so keep being that wild 25 year old!! I know that I am and I hit the big 5-0 this year! :-)

  5. Thanks all for your birthday wishes! They are appreciated from the bottom of my heart!

  6. Happy bithday. Welcome to the "club".

    I tuned 43 in June and rembember at 3 yrs. old, my parents sitting me down to watch the men on the moon.

    Your list, like your cupcakes is perfect!

    EMM (from P4500 via Jtwo0)

  7. i love this. thank you so much for sharing your wisdom. i adore reading people's lists like this! i always learn something, or nod and go, "oh geez, so right!!"

    happy belated birthday too!!!