Archive for the ‘cupcakes’ Category

Hot Child in the City

Sunday, September 18th, 2011

After being abroad for five months I returned home with my wander lust quelled and my bank account severely diminished. I had known since I signed up to go to Australia that I wouldn’t return home until July, so I wasn’t even going to bother trying to find employment for the month and a half I was going to be home. The week I returned home I did nothing but eat and sleep at very odd hours while trying to get my life back in order. I scheduled some doctors appointments and made plans with friends to hang out, but generally I was quite lazy. I got home on the 20th of July and I did almost nothing that entire weekend following. Monday, July 25th was my best friend Jaime’s birthday. She loves cupcakes more than any other sugary treat, so I grabbed Julie and we headed in DC midday to procure some of the famous Georgetown cupcakes for Jaime’s 21st birthday celebration. Mom knew we were going into the city that day so she asked if we could pick her up on our way out, and of course we agreed.

As Julie and I were driving into the city Mom called us and told us that a woman in her office was in a panic because her nanny had just quit on her, and she had come to her asking if she knew anyone who could watch her 18 month old son for the remainder of the summer. She had mentioned that Julie and I both babysat and now she wanted to meet us. This worked out perfectly since we were already in DC, so after we had gotten the cupcakes we headed over to Mom’s office to meet this woman. What she was offering was a 9-5 job working at her home in NW DC watching her son through the last week of August. Julie wasn’t too keen on the idea, but I was in need of some cash flow, so we both left her our contact information.

She called me the next day offering me the job, which I accepted. I had told her up front that I already had plans to visit Justin during the first week of August, but she had managed to find temporary help for that week, so I was hired! When I got back from Missourri on the 7th of August I went over to her house to meet Ryan, who I would be taking care of, and get acquainted with her house. Monday I showed up for my first day of work.

I have to say that aside from the money making aspect of this job I wasn’t thrilled about this. I have always preferred to watch children that are of an age where I can hold a real conversation with them. I was at a loss as to how I was going to entertain this child from 9-5 every day for a month.

To more adaquetely summarize this, a passage from one of my favorite websites, on children

“Based exclusively on what I’ve seen in public and my own spectacular imagination, I’ve gathered that having a child is the end of personal existence. Every selfish indulgence, every private ambition and every lazy afternoon of recreational sex is pinned down by biological imperative and strangled to death with an umbilical cord. Whatever part of the body Sense of Self used to inhabit is suddenly filled with only an intense urge to raise and protect an ill-designed hunk of flesh incapable of lifting its own spongy head. And even when it’s old enough to walk or speak, there is still an 18-year investment of ensuring its hair is combed, its closet isn’t filled with evil and that it learns to swim before falling in the family pool. Frankly, it sounds awful.”

To compound this, the family didn’t have a television. Great. So I was going to spend my days changing diapers and spoon feeding a toddler who couldn’t yet walk or talk. I wasn’t too elated at the idea of this, but I figured at the very least it would be a low stress well paying job, and hey, worst case scenario it was only for a month.


Meet Ryan!


My first day with Ryan was delightful. I couldn’t have been more wrong about hanging out with him. He was the happiest, most complacent and easy to please child I have ever worked with, and the hours we spent laughing and playing flew by. I would come over in the morning and eat breakfast with him and then we would take naps together in the afternoon. In between I read books to him, we took walks around the neighborhood and to local playgrounds. I learned that Ryan loves music, so I would bring my ipod or computer and have songs going in the background all day, and sometimes dance for him which made him giggle endlessly.

Me and Ryan

He wasn’t quite walking yet, but he was on the verge, so I would help him stroll around the house using his little baby walker and sometimes pick him up by his hands and twirl him around the room before plopping him down on the couch. The only danger in this behavior was that once I had done it once he wanted it again and again and again. His favorite food was bananas so we would often split a banana for a snack in the afternoon. Once the heat finally broke I would take him out back to play in an inflatable baby pool.


squinty eyes






Naptime, always a favorite of mine

Sometimes nap time starts without me


The latest in tabletop aviation: the airplane fork

The first few days I was there he put up a bit of a stink when his mom would leave in the morning, but by my second or third week he wouldn’t even notice because he was excited that I was there. Whenever we would go out on walks, women would tell me what a beautiful son I had, and even though it seemed odd to me that they thought I looked like I had birthed this 18 month old baby, I just went with it. Oddly enough, when men passed us by they always picked up on the fact that I was not his mother, instead saying things like “I bet hanging with him is a nice summer job.” I could never tell if the women were just trying not to be wrong in assuming that he was mine, or if the men were really more perceptive in these situations.

I have never become very attached to the kids I have babysat. Even when I was a summer camp counselor I never felt any special connection to the kids that I worked with, so it felt odd that I grew so attached to Ryan. I was genuinely sad to hand him over to his parents at the end of every day, and now as I write this, I think of his smile and his laugh and feel a twinge in my heart (wow that sounded less sappy in my head). He was such a happy and delightful little boy, and so close to walking and talking that it was exciting to watch him almost say words and stand up on his own every day.




o hai!

I can say without a doubt that watching Ryan changed my perspective on babies. Before watching him I thought babies were cute, sure, but I had always seen them as these eternally loud, smelly and needy little beings that operated on pure id, constantly wanting things but unable to express it so they would just cry. Watching parents make stupid faces and spouting all their “goo goo ga ga” baby talk dribble at their children made me feel embarrassed for them. But in playing with Ryan I got to really enjoy myself. I am still not a fan of baby talk but we had a blast together, and I became the peek-a-boo master. He seldom cried, instead he would just screech really loud to get my attention, but in getting to know him it became very easy to figure out what he wanted when he did that.

Whenever Justin would ask me about him I would say ” O me and my new boyfriend are very happy together, he is a far better cuddlier than you. He kissed me today too, be jealous.”










I would come home every day and enthusiastically tell my mom how much fun I had with Ryan. One day she said to me, “I’m pretty sure you working with Ryan is the reason I am going to end up getting grandkids.” She might be right. If I could have two babies just like Ryan I would be so down for parenthood.

My new boyfriend

I am very jealous of the Au Pair Ryan will soon be working with him full time, but I did leave my phone number with his parents so hopefully one day I can babysit for an evening. I was very tempted to forgo my last semester of school and just work with Ryan instead. If only if only.



Courtney’s Birthday In Argyle

Wednesday, May 11th, 2011

Saturday was Courtney’s Birthday, and Kaela and I had made up our minds that we were going to make her favorite dessert for her birthday. A red velvet cake. Kaela had wanted to do it from a box mix, but I have never prepared anything that tasted better out of a box than it does from scratch. Plus when you use a box mix you get all these nasty unnecessary preservatives and additives that are easily avoided if you cook it yourself. Of course I was not this tactful when discussing this with Kaela and Jill. The conversation went something like this:

Me: What are we doing for Courtney’s birthday this weekend? Did we want to make a cake or something?

Kaela: O yeah, I was going to make a red velvet cake because its her favorite.

Me: O cool, you going to make it from scratch?

Kaela: No I thought I would just pick up a box mix.

Me: Well thats lame!

Jill: VALERIE! You are so mean! Kaela is trying to do something nice for Courtney what does it matter?

*Open mouth insert foot*

Me: I’m just saying that box mixes are lame, not that Kaela wanting to contribute to the birthday festivities is lame. Look, I can help you and we can do it right.

Jill: Valerie! Could you be nicer?! There is nothing wrong with a box mix!

This is pretty much par for the course in terms of how conversations in our apt go. I say something that comes off more harsh than I meant it, Kaela, being the sweetheart she is says nothing, and Jill being fearless, verbally knocks me over the head. Its a good balance. If our apt were an episode of Sex and the City I would be Miranda, Jill would be Samantha, Courtney would be Carrie and Kaela would be Charlotte.

I really don’t get why everyone goes nuts over red velvet cake. I don’t think people realize its just a chocolate cake with red food dye in it. The first time I ever made one was for a friend’s fathers birthday. I foolishly thought it was a raspberry or strawberry flavored dessert, and that the red color was due to some natural ingredient. How young and naive I was. I was very disheartened when I started looking up recipes and saw that the magical crimson ingredient was nothing more than a dye. I spent about twenty minutes researching recipes thinking that maybe that was just a cheap substitute for the actual ingredient that would turn it red. No dice.

So then I thought well why does it need to be red? It doesnt! It’s  just a color. So to satiate my appetite for humor and irony I bought blue food dye instead and made a blue velvet cake, because that was going to be a fun moment. When someone cuts into a red velvet cake and finds that its blue. That messes with your head for a minute. Plus the recipient of the cake was an Elvis fan and I thought once the initial moment of shock was overcome he would find it funny.

Anyway, Sat morning Jill was at work and Courtney was at a friends so Kaela and I compiled a list of ingredients and then trekked over to the grocery store to do our shopping. Once we returned to the apartment it was getting later in the afternoon and we didn’t want Courtney walking in on the cake making mid progress, so we went down to one of the boys apartments and used their kitchen instead.

Since we were expecting ten or so guests that evening our original plan was to make two double layer cakes with cream cheese icing and white chocolate shavings on top. We doubled the recipe and used just about every bowl and spoon in the kitchen in doing so. The mixing bowls we had were not large enough to hold the amount of cake batter we were dealing with so we ended up putting it in a giant plastic Tupperware container that looker more like a bathtub for a small child. We put our first two cakes in the oven and they burnt slightly on the tops but were still soupy in the middle. For some reason our Australian oven REALLY does not like to cook cakes, because this is what always happens to me no matter how I adjust the time/temperature/oven racks. Since the cakes came out kinda lopsided I decided to grab the muffin tins and have the second round be cupcakes instead. The cupcakes turned out much better. Since we didn’t have an electric mixer our icing turned out a bit runnier than I would have liked, but it all tasted great and Paula Deen would have approved of the amount of butter we used, even though I was mildly horrified.  Our double layered cake turned out a bit special looking and since the icing was runny it also kinda looked like it was melting, but the white chocolate shavings helped a bit and it all tasted decadently divine, so who cares.

Once we had cleaned up I went back over to our apartment where I found Courtney. Kaela returned fifteen minutes later to avoid suspicion. Once Jill returned home from work we sang, lit sparklers and presented our velvet creations.

Happy Birthday to Courtney!

For dinner we ordered take out from Baja Cantina, a wonderful Mexican restaurant in Glebe. Then we all changed into going out clothes, had a few people over for more cake and merriment and then headed out to a nightclub on the Rocks called The Argyle. Courtney and her friends that came over all wanted to take a cab, but since Kaela, Jill and I had bus passes we opted to meet them there and take the bus instead.

I had never been to this club before, but there was no cover charge, which for a Saturday night in downtown Sydney is damn near miraculous. Being that it is moving into winter here, it was a brisk evening, about 60 degrees or so, but still nice. Australians, we have observed, have absolutely no cold weather tolerance. This week on campus I have switched from flip flops and short sleeves to my sperrys and a zip up hoodie and felt perfectly comfortable, but all week I have been passing by people who look  like they are about to embark on an arctic expedition. People have been wearing huge fluffy down coats with hats, scarves, gloves and boots. Seriously? I used to think Virginia was bad about snow but I think if Sydney ever saw a snowflake they would declare a national state of emergency. When we entered the Argyle courtyard they had outdoor heaters placed ever ten feet or so. Really? It’s 60 degrees out. Come on people. Man up.

Outdoor courtyard

We walked inside to a very crowded room buzzing with activity. We were meeting everyone upstairs so we headed towards the stairs, but above the stairs looking down from the top floor were three tall European guys who were pointing at us. I tried not to pay any attention, but as soon as we got to the top of the stairs one of them grabbed my arm and yelled over the music “Can I buy you a drink?”

What I actually said: “Um, no thats ok. I’m here with my friends, its my roommates birthday, so we are trying to find her”

What I wanted to say: “You really think its that easy? You really think that you purchasing me alcohol makes me want to talk to you? How about try opening with something that actually shows me you have brain cells and not just a penis and a desire to buy your way into my pants”

Upstairs area

We keep moving and eventually find Courtney with all her friends hanging out in a corner by the bar. We mingled and danced a bit while some random girl we didn’t know puked into a champagne bucket in the corner of the room. I mean if you have to throw up I guess you might as well do so in style. Wanting to get away from the thick mass of people surrounding the bar we decided to check out some of the other rooms. On our way across the room this seven foot tall Armenian guy with two of his buddies in tow stops me and asks me what my name is.

Apparently my blonde head floats above the crowd as a beacon attracting  all manner of creepy untactful males. Talking to this guy I got a feel for what it must be like for short people to talk to me. Even in heels  I was craning my neck to look at him. I told him my name and he asked me where I was from. I said the states and then he told me he was from Armenia. I said that was cool. I mean what else can you say?  Then he asked me if I even knew where Armenia was on a map. I honestly didn’t. I had some vague notion of it being somewhere in between western Europe and the middle east, but beyond that I really had no clue. So after insulting me over my lack of geographical knowledge he asks to buy me a drink.

I found Armenia

What I Said: “No I’m ok thank you, I’m hanging out with my friends tonight, its my roommates birthday”

What I wanted to say: ” I know I am probably the only person who is even neck level with you in this room but I don’t respond well to being scolded about geography and then attempted to be bought via alcohol. Yeah, we are done talking now. Goodbye”

Jill pulled me in the direction opposite of where he was and as I walked away he shouted at me “Hey, we were talking here!” Astute sense of the obvious there sir. Maybe you should have also observed that not wanting to talk to you I stopped and started to walk away.

Am I the only girl on the planet that really despises being hit on? If someone wants to come up to me and actually talk to me then sure, lets have a conversation. Plus if someone buys me a drink I would feel obligated to hang around them while I drank it and carry on a conversation, and I don’t want to make that kind of commitment before I am sure that said person is worth talking to. But for someone to compliment me and then think they can buy me off with an alcoholic beverage in the vain hope that I will later want to make any sort of physical contact with them is an insult to my intelligence and a waste of my time and I don’t find it flattering in any way.

We spent a few more minutes mingling and dancing, but after only being there for an hour Courtney had decided she wanted to go home, even if her other friends did not. So we headed back out through the court yard, piled into a cab and zipped off back to Glebe for some late night pasta and bit more red velvet before going to bed.