Monthly Archives: October 2014

The lottery of birth.

Syria is on all our minds right now. We go about our lives as usual but I think about the people caught up in it quite often, mostly with feelings of helplessness, dread, relief, despondence. Helplessness at not being able to stop 8-9 year old girls from being picked off and raped (or worse) on a deranged man’s whim; dread over seeing another useless war looming over the horizon; relief that my family is not that family; despondence over all these other feelings.

I read a BBC report about the plight of these Kurdish Yazidis that the world has forgotten about amidst the more important matters of terrorism and ISIS and territorial rights. These women and girls, locked up in guarded compounds, await their fate much as a tied macaque waits for its inevitable end as bait for a hungry tiger. They may scream and flail, faint from shock, slit their wrists, but their perpetrators will still mercilessly grab their young daughters away from them and do with them as they may. I can’t even imagine their physical living conditions let alone the trauma of having your child taken from you, crying and kicking, to be carted off to what is certainly not a humane end.

How, as a parent, do you live after something like this?

Kurdish women, courtesy BBC UK
Kurdish women, courtesy BBC UK

I have Kurdish friends whose girls are 8 and 6, prime age for this thing we’re talking about. I cannot imagine those bubbly, kind girls who beg their mom to buy them a locket necklace so they can put their friends’ picture in it having to worry about being mauled at the hands of a strange man. Their mother, as open faced and mellow as the ones in this picture, dotes on her daughters and gently chides them for being greedy. My friends got away; the women in the picture could not. Their daughters are safe; the little girl above, who knows. Our friends’ kids will grow up as detached from the struggle in their home country as any other American but it could so easily have been them.

No wonder then that ancient Hinduism taught reincarnation and past karma determining your lot in this life. How else could they explain this lottery that is birth?

Chocolate cupcakes with Cream Cheese Buttercream.

She who can master icing can master the world.” — Anonymous.

Whoever said that knows her pastry. What d’ya mean it isn’t a real quote? Someone very wise and important obviously coined it. It even rings of an ancient Chinese proverb! Like, he who can master his mind can master everything. I don’t see anyone questioning that.

Okay, fine, I said it. But it is wholly, completely, a 100% the truth.

And today I’ve found MY icing. Or frosting. (I’ve never known the difference.) Cupcake/cake topping. My friend E swore by it and sent me her recipe. I also found one on the Food Network. I combined elements of the two, and now I have my very own go-to frosting recipe.

This frosting is basically a mixture of butter and cream cheese and sugar. They meet and create a magical threesome that is soft and pillowy, creamy and un-comatose sweet, not too buttery not too tart. In short, a professional looking and tasting frosting that elevates a common cupcake to new levels of yum. I used it to frost chocolate cupcakes from this recipe.

As I’ve said before, I’ve never really been able to bake cakes partly because my technique is probably flawed plus I’ve never had anything to frost it with. Traditional buttercreams leave a greasy film on my palate that is not enjoyable. Too much cream cheesiness isn’t my preference either. If you’re like me, you’ll love this one. The proportions are easy to remember and easily scaled to your project. The quantities I’ve outlined generously frosted 12 regular-sized cupcakes. So without further ado…

You’ll need:

1 stick softened, room temp butter (salted is fine)
1/2 of a 8oz tub of cream cheese
Scant 2 cups confectioner’s sugar
Dash of pure vanilla (about 1 tbsp)

Just throw everything together in an electric mixer with the paddle attachment on. Start slow but then beat at med-high for about 2 minutes or until the frosting looks fluffy, almost like a thick whipped cream. Resist the urge to lick right out of mixing bowl.

This frosting can be spread on your cupcakes with a spatula or (like I did) filled into a pastry bag with the tip cut off and iced in a professional manner. Ahem.

It is very, very tasty and comes together in a super cool way. You’re welcome. 🙂

The conundrum of ability.

Do you think your kids are a projection of you? Do you sometimes feel fake when someone pays you a compliment because you don’t think you deserve it? Are you secretly ecstatic but have trouble accepting a compliment graciously? When does your child’s achievement become your achievement by virtue of it happening to your child?

It’s all super confusing but let me explain. V is academically very bright. He (right now) shows advanced capabilities in reading and math. He has a logical mind that runs completely different to my own while solving math problems but he has also been born with an ability to express himself eloquently in writing, a trait most likely coming from me or entirely his own (depending on whether you read this whole post or skip away).

These are all facts. I haven’t had anything to do with it. He’s an overachiever right now, and I have no idea if this is going to be his future or not, whether his life will be richer because of his abilities or not, whether his smartness will be compromised by his lack of people skills or be enhanced by it. I don’t know if he will grow up to be kind, humble, compassionate but still competitive and successful. Of course, I will hope that he will be a famous scientist or academic or mathematician one day who will be rich and respected and happy, all at once.

Now my question is this: When my child achieves something that is considered desirable by the society we live in, how much of the credit, if any, goes to me? And how am I supposed to behave in the light of his success? When he won a spelling bee last year, people congratulated me. I was undoubtedly super happy and proud of him — heck, deep inside I was proud of myself too (to hubby: See? See?) — but when friends said wow, he did great, I wasn’t sure how to react. If I said, “Yeah, I know!” I felt like I was almost tooting my own horn, like saying “See, my kid did it!” If I say something like it’s not a big deal, it feels like I’m negating his accomplishment or, worse, fishing for more compliments by being hypocritically humble.

Naysayers might say, hey, it’s not about you, it’s about your kid! But tell me this: who finds him these contests and spell bees to participate in? Who champions his cause when his less than stellar qualities are in the forefront? Who eggs him on to things he enjoys and doesn’t pester him for ones he doesn’t? Who loves him no matter what?

When he doesn’t meet eyes with someone talking to him or is rude to a friendly stranger, I take it personally. Maybe I should learn to also graciously accept credit for his success when someone attributes it to me? In all honesty, I probably had a little something to do with it anyway.