Coffee and Cake


Coffee and cake belong together, don’t they? Sure, you can have one without the other, but why would you?

Growing up, my family always had a cake waiting in the wings in case we had company. It might be an Entenmann’s cake, a Sara Lee pound cake, a Jewel almond braid or cheese danish, or my mom’s homemade Bisquick cake. But I can’t recall a time when there wasn’t cake.

And the thing is, it wasn’t for us. It was for company only. Some of you might be familiar with the comedian Sebastian Maniscalco? He grew up in an Italian American family in the Chicago suburbs much like I did (Italian on half and Scottish and Irish on the other), and he talks about this very thing in one of his shows.

There may be days when no one came by, and there’s this lonely little cake sitting in the box, and you think you’re going to just have a little piece? Just wait until Mom sees you trying to dig in. Not a chance…it’s for company!

Today, we’re more likely to have a fruit salad in the fridge instead of a cake. Which to me, is kind of sad.

Sure, I’m on board with eating healthy and doing all the things you ought to do. But to me, cake and coffee is medicine. Think about it. You don’t usually eat it alone, right? It involves people. Usually people that you love. Or at least like. A little.

It involves conversation. Sitting around a table, telling stories, laughing. You can’t have serious conversation over cake. It just doesn’t happen. Try talking politics over cake and coffee. They just don’t mix!

Cake and coffee is about love. About family and friends connecting. Enjoying a moment. Slowing down and savoring–the cake, the coffee, the conversation and the company.

So, who’s coming over for some cake and coffee? I’ll be ready.

Bay City Rollers–My First Concert

Bay City Rollers–My First Concert

I was 11. My twin and I were “mad for plaid” as were millions of other teens and ‘tweens at the time.

The Bay City Rollers were one of the original boy bands. They were a pop group from Scotland whose adorable accents and easy to listen to songs (and did I mention they were also cute?) made them one of the top bands of the mid to late 1970’s. Sone of you might even remember their hit “Saturday Night?”

They became one of our favorites. We had the photos from Tiger Beat and the other magazines plastered all over the walls of our bedroom.

My brother’s girlfriend and one of her friends took my sister Laura and I to see them at the Arie Crown Theatre in Chicago. It was our first concert ever. I remember getting dressed in my jeans with the plaid sewn down the sides (just like the band wore), and hoping to get a close up glimpse of Les, the lead singer, who was my favorite.

We went to Dianna’s on Halsted, a famous Greek restaurant for dinner before the show. The waiter served us wine (hey, this was the ’70’s, no judging!) which I thought tasted horrible. How times change, right? We had saganaki for the first time, learning to say “opaa” as the waiter flamed the cheese at the table.

After a wonderful dinner, we were off to the Arie Crown for the show. I remember the moment the band took the stage, and for a few minutes it was nearly impossible to hear them over the screams of delight from the young fans, myself included. For the next hour or so, I imagined that Les was singing just for me. Yes, I’m sure every other girl in the place was thinking the same thing, but don’t ruin it for me, ok?

I’ve seen probably hundreds of concerts since that first one, but just like a first love, the Bay City Rollers and that concert will always hold a special place in my heart. How about you? Who was your first?



April Fool’s Day and My Coach Norm

April Fools Day. I don’t know where the custom originated, but there have been some elaborate pranks played in the name of this holiday if you can call it that.

The one that stands out in my mind is the one I played on my track coach Norm on April Fools Day 1991. I was on target to make the Barcelona Paralympic Team, turning in performances that were almost certain to get me selected.

We had an indoor roller workout that evening, an hour of solid pushing on the stationary training tool. After practice I told Norm I needed to talk to him. I told him that I had not been feeling well, had gone to the doctor, and I was pregnant. I told him I was keeping the baby and not going to pursue the Paralympics. My whole team was in on the gag so they went along with the story, feigning shock and surprise.

Norm completely blew his top. This usually level-headed, calm and rational guy was yelling at me about how I was blowing the biggest chance of my life, ruining my potential. You get the picture. I was amazed he wasn’t thinking what day it was, and I didn’t let on just yet. I gave him a hug and told him everything would be ok. It wasn’t until later that night when I called him at home, and said, “Norm, it’s Linda. April Fools!”

He couldn’t decide whether to be angry with me or whether to laugh at how well he’d been played. Lucky for me, his sense of humor came through!

I’ve never been a big April Fool’s prankster, I’m honestly not sure what inspired that one. But every year, we remembered. And we laughed.

I still think about that joke. I think about Norm, who has now been gone for ten years. I miss him, and I’m so grateful to have shared such a special silly moment with him.