How To Cover Your Body in Buttercream

Mary Berry, face of the Great British Bake Off (GBBO) and most polite judge in the history of reality television, picked up a slice of spongecake and went in for the taste. She chewed slowly, squinted her piercing blue eyes, and swallowed.

“That,” she paused “is a lovely sponge.”

Every time she did it I was reminded of Speedy, my childhood pet turtle, and the way he’d move his neck as he went in for the first bite of a garden grub or roly-poly (that’s what we called pill bugs as children; the British use the same word to refer to a sweet dough with filling… and I’m already grossed out by this post, which is exactly the opposite of what I was going for). Anyway, I don’t say that to insult Mary Berry. She’s a total queen. It’s just that sometimes her bites are a bit reptilian.

My sister’s birthday was last week so I decided to grab Mary’s Victoria Sponge recipe and surprise her with a cake. Today I’m sharing my process and the final results.

Disclaimer: I’m neither a baker nor a food blogger. I’d barely touched an oven before I hosted a Thanksgiving abroad in 2013 (against my will and with severe anxiety that I might accidentally poison everyone). I’ve hosted three more since then (voluntarily and with great enthusiasm), learned how to make pie crust, made one chocolate cake, a few batches of brownies, and an apple pie that didn’t impress the Spaniards very much. It was a great pie so I went ahead and blamed “cultural differences” and tried not to roll onto the floor when it was suggested that cabello de angel should be added to the filling.

So. I hope this helps.

(more…)

Do like the Schuykill and flow.

Schuykill River

Schuykill River, Philadelphia, PA, July 2017

Anyone with the financial security to believe in choice will tell you that you should model your life’s work after the thing that makes you forget about time. It’s called flow. I have a problem, though. I get immersed in many things and not a one of them has proven very lucrative (yet). Like, I could spend days just…

  • Writing about the mundane events of my daily life
  • Lip-syncing to the RuPaul playlist
  • Sketching at a first-grade level
  • Thinking about what it would’ve been like to have lunch with Oliver Sacks
  • Helping children write skits
  • Pretending to be a lifestyle guru
  • Sitting in a cinema with a bag of peanut m&ms, crying quietly during a heartbreaking scene (like when Marion Cotillard starts screaming Marceeeellllll! in La Vie en Rose)
  • Editing the soul-bearing personal statements of other people
  • Editing anything
  • Traveling alone to a place I’ve never been before
  • Watching a play and wondering what it’s like to be on stage
  • Trying to impersonate Oprah talking about Gayle
  • Eating
  • Watching people who actually know how to dance, dance
  • Starting a project
  • Walking with nowhere to go
  • Riding the same metro for longer than twenty minutes
  • Perfecting my Long Island accent
  • Reading old letters
  • Eavesdropping on people at cafes and in waiting rooms

So you see… I’m writing in lists lately. I apologize for that. It’s flow’s fault–the fault of it, really. It’s hard to flow when your brain is otherwise occupied with financial and logistical matters. I’m over here like Virginia, shouting all this lady needs is some money and a room of her own! Y’know, if Virginia were an American ESL teacher searching for a summer side-hustle.

The Doorman in My Bewbz

I spent my last full week in Madrid wearing yoga pants and singing Santana’s “María María” as I cared for a teenager of the same name.  I was having a blast but feeling pretty suburban so to welcome the weekend I wore an outfit that made me feel like a prostitute on her way to a high-school orchestra concert. It’s difficult to say whether wearing a push-up bra makes me feel sexy or if it’s just that I enjoy the feeling I get from tricking weird men into whooping at what are really just two well-sculpted pillows. Jose María, the doorman, had rung me before I went out to tell me he had a package waiting for me and that I’d better come get it since it was his last day.

Now, I’m five foot ten or eleven in heels and Jose María is five foot on a good day. He ushered me into his office where I explained that the package contained a tablecloth made by my great-grandmother. The top of his head ended right at my big fake cleavage and I tried really hard not to laugh as he told me about his retirement plans. I wished that someone were painting us. They could title it:

Jose María and an Awkward Glamazon or
Tiny Doorman Passes Parcel to Possible Prosti or
Could Franco Have Foreseen This?

No one painted us, as far as I know. I crouched down to give him the customary dos besos and then walked out, me and that century old tablecloth both marveling at where we’d ended up.

How To Pack in 24 Self-Reflective Steps

I’ve done a lot of market research on lifestyle blogs/listicles and I’ve noticed that a lot of people seek help when it comes to putting their things in bags and then traveling with them, so I thought I’d share my own method. I’ve been packing this way for years and its always worked for me.

  1. Take your suitcase out of the closet. Open it.
  2. Walk away from the suitcase.
  3. Put a wig on.
  4. Take a casual selfie:IMG_20170702_233124_817
  5. Think: I am lookin’ like a drowned, harassed rat (then wonder who wrote that line in “Let’s Have a Kiki” and envy them).
  6. Start playing one or two songs on repeat. This year I’m listening to Rihanna’s “Love on The Brain” and “Higher.” The best lines are “What do I gotta do to get in yo’ mothafuckin’ heart?” and “I just really need your ass with me,” respectively.
  7. Receive a message from a friend with a link to Tina Turner’s  1982 performance of “Proud Mary” and then spend between ten and thirty minutes freaking out about how amazing Tina Turner and her legs are.
  8. Clean out the pockets of your winter coats and wonder why it is always in the pockets of said coats that the most bittersweet of memories live.
  9. Read your old journals and feel mildly embarrassed. Destroy between twelve and fifteen pages after you deem them too dramatic and/or dirty for public consumption in the event that you suffer an untimely death and someone has to go through your things.
  10. Take the wig off and feel a little bit sad about it.
  11. Have a brief panic attack when you think you’re a year older than you actually are.
  12. Have lunch.
  13. Have a coffee.
  14. Have a tiny mental breakdown as you compare your life today to your life at this same moment last year. Entertain the possibility that you are making all of the wrong decisions, all of the time. Realize that you feel this same way when you compare your life two weeks ago to your life today and resolve to be more carpe diem because, seriously, who cares?
  15. Think for a good bit about the absurdity of being afraid.
  16. Repeat Step # 4.
  17. Start folding and stacking clothing. Find a slim journal among a pile of t-shirts, start reading it, and begin to suspect that your past self planted emotional bombs all over your room in some kind of sick plan to thwart your departure.
  18. Start taking your books off the shelf, smelling the pages, and remembering where and why you read each of them.
  19. Wish someone would bring you a snack and a proper iced coffee.
  20. Throw all of your clothing on top of your suitcase, reasoning that, while this does not qualify as packing, at least it has gotten closer to its final destination.
  21. Repeat Step # 6.
  22. Make and eat dinner.
  23. Call your sister to inquire about how many formal dresses you’ve left in the closet at home. Although you have no plans to attend any black tie events during your visit, this feels urgent. Chat for an hour with multiple family members about eyebrows, taxes, and “Ice Cream Jerks.”
  24.  Write a stupid list about everything you just did and promise yourself that you’ll make more progress tomorrow (cuz you’re responsible as eff and started this three days early).

Luv and pride,

Seo

I Don’t Need a Calendar

Dec7th 022

I know it’s May when I start thinking about getting a career counselor and fantasizing about being reborn as a bohemian richboi.

Bohemian Richboi: Mid-twenties/early thirties, smart guy, lives in a lovely apartment but has never paid rent. Two Masters deep. Parents: biological Mom & Dad and also The State.

In Spanish: Hijo de papá.

I don’t really want to be a bohemian richboi, of course. I like paying my own bills. I get membership, at least, in one of the biggest but most exclusive clubs on earth: people who pay and have little left over. I am willing to admit that I might only say this because I am brainwashed to believe that there is something to be proud of about having less. It is also possible that I just like having something to tell myself when a BRB annoys me. The truth is that I too want to live in libraries and on bar-stools. I too want to believe that knowing the name Jacques Derrida makes me better than.

“Whatever, at least the money I use to buy beer and say stupid things is mine.”

A man I love often said “No sabe hacer la ‘o’ con un canuto.” We used this idiom for a lot of things. She may be a doctor of Philosophy, but she doesn’t know how to save a file. He may have written 400 pages on Economic Theory, but he doesn’t know how to ask the waiter for the check. She may be this country’s premier Agricultural Scientist, but ya boo has never touched a shovel.

“The conversations of straight white men…” a friend of mine says. He never completes the sentence. We have our own ways of making people small, less about who’s read what and who’s been where than it is about OK, who here has ever wanted or really thought about what that might mean?

I went to Warsaw two weeks ago. A man I know thinks that people who live in cold places have better senses of humor. I stayed with a stranger who became a friend. On the midnight bus to Ostrobramska we laughed so hard that our ribs hurt and tears jumped from our eyes.

“What’s the best thing about being Polish?” I asked a factory worker on the Vistula River.

“I am proud of being Polish. We are poor but we have fought for our history” my new friend translated.

I may not be a BRG but I do have enough to dip into worlds that aren’t mine and drink wine there.

A thing called “wealth therapy” exists. It’s often geared towards those who have inherited their fortunes. Therapists teach trust fund babies how to overcome the guilt that being part of the 1% creates and how to accept their fortunes and reach their full potentials (note: the BRB and the trust fund baby are not the same but surely they have some things in common). I read an article about group therapy of this type at Central Park. The group must smell very good. Rich people always seem like they’ve just had a shower. There are tiny AC units under their armpits that puff out essential oils at all the right moments. I can’t be the only one who thinks so. One man in the article said that being rich felt like his “dirty little secret.” It is not possible for me to take this seriously.

He was born, had everything he could ever wish for, and grew up to be successful” is not the sort of story that anyone I know is interested in, but I certainly don’t feel bad for the main character.

Where does rich guilt fall on the hierarchy of shame?

It was May. It ended quickly.

Luv and labor,

Seo