Hunk of the Day: Justin Leonard

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Male model and personal fitness trainer Justin Leonard is the Hunk of the Day. Represented by Ford Models Chicago and The Matthew Agency in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Mr. Leonard brings some classic American ruggedness to the realm of hunks, along with a sultry smile that manages to be sweet and sexy at once. His work with UnderwearNation.com, as seen here, is something to behold. That site always manages to bring out the best, and the beast, in its photo shoots. Of course, Mr. Leonard brings some of his own heat as well. Good things to work with…

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Zephyr in the Sky At Night, I Wonder

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On this date way back in 1998 Madonna released what remains her best album to date: ‘Ray of Light.’ It’s my personal favorite as well, thanks to the time in my life when it came out, in addition to its own musical merit. ‘Light’ remade Madonna into the critically-acclaimed artist she has remained through this present day (continuing with next week’s release of ‘Rebel Heart.’)

Whenever winter starts to crumble, when spring is in the night air, I’ll play this album start to finish, and go on the emotional roller-coaster that was 1998 all over again. It’s Madonna’s most fully-realized album, a soundscape held together by William Orbit’s production, grounded in the warmth and resonance of Madonna’s voice, and lifted by the higher concerns of our place in the universe. It’s also a marker of my youth, of a time when I was searching for love, stumbling through my 20′s, and wondering whether I’d always be alone. When music comes out at such personal cross-roads, it becomes part of your soul. That’s what ‘Ray of Light’ is for me, and if you ever want to get closer to me, listen to that work and we’ll talk.

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Hunk of the Day: Douglas Williams

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Any time that I can incorporate a local angle into the Hunk of the Day is a fun one. Case in point is today’s Hunk Douglas Williams, who will be performing with the Albany Symphony Orchestra this month at the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. (I actually performed with the Albany Symphony Orchestra once, alongside my private teacher. Clearly they were desperate for oboes, otherwise my ass never would have made it onto the Palace stage.) In the case of Mr. Williams, his hotness matches his talent (as exhibited in most of these photos by Kevin McDermott.) Mr. Williams is a bass-baritone with a booming voice, but before I embarrass myself trying to recall musical terms, let’s allow his website to explore his talents more accurately:

Douglas Williams has received international acclaim for his expressivity, outstanding stage presence, and generous vocal tone. In opera, concert, chamber music, and musical theater he is recognized for his versatility and range both vocally and dramatically, and this has brought him into collaboration with some of the great artists, composers, and directors of our time. His repertoire reaches over four centuries, being a sought-after interpreter of Monteverdi, Handel, Bach, and Mozart, in addition to the romantic and modern eras.

In concert Douglas Williams has appeared with several notable orchestras including the Detroit Symphony, the Houston Symphony, the New Haven Symphony, the Alabama Symphony, and the Albany Symphony. Likewise he has concertized with the baroque period orchestras Tafelmusik, les Talens Lyriques, Philharmonia Baroque, the Carmel Bach Festival, the Boston Early Music Festival Orchestra, Freiburger Barockorchester, and Seattle Baroque. In contemporary chamber music he has sung with the Biava Quartet, Ensemble Signal, Sound Icon, and the Southwest Chamber Music Society.

Douglas Williams trained at the New England Conservatory with Edward Zambara and the Yale School of Music with James Taylor. He has been a Fellow of the Tanglewood Music Center, the Carmel Bach Festival, and a post-graduate Fellow of the Yale School of Music. His interest in theater lead him to train in Shakespeare & Company’s noted Monthlong Intensive in Lenox, Massachusetts, with Tina Packer and Dennis Krausnick.

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The First Recap on the 2nd of March

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The snow-covered tundra of upstate New York greets this crazy month with, what else, some more snow. Poo-poo to that frou-frou. I’m still recovering from the tornado that was having my niece and nephew stay over on Saturday night. Yes, it takes that long. Remind me never to serve French toast or anything that requires syrup again as the entire house was sticky for the whole next day. But enough about that, onto the recap…

The week began with the somewhat surprising hunktitude of Calvin Harris. Did that come out of left field, or do I just not know how baseball works?

Another surprise was the unhyped and unheralded return of the Madonna Timeline with this hush-hush song that instantly brings to mind the first guy I ever kissed.

The last week of February marked my brother’s birthday.

Madonna was dragged down but did what she does best: got back up and rose like the phoenix. You can’t keep a good woman down.

The great crepe caper.

For the first time ever, there was a three-time Hunk of the Day ~ Ronnie Kroell – as voted on by you. (And me.)

Other notable hunks included Serge Ibaka, Jay Khan, Levi Stocke, and Stephen Amell.

Flowers can lift the darkest days, and that’s a very good thing at this time of the year.

Fashion can do that too, and when in an emotional pinch I head to the closet and find something like this to cheer me up.

Mark MacKillop is still promoting (and perfecting) his latest book, Rm. XIV.

The Special Guest Blog is still going strong, with this entry by one of my besties, Ann Agresta. (Applications for your own Guest Blog are currently being accepted – just do it!)

The month of March is still wild.

And Tom Daley is still in a Speedo.

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Hunk of the Day: Stephen Amell

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A request and a promise fulfilled, this is Stephen Amell, the Hunk of the Day. Mr. Amell’s cousin Robbie was recently featured as a Hunk here, so it’s only fair that Stephen be given his due. In fact, Stephen has the edge when it comes to onscreen male nudity, but I hate to pit family against each other (unless it’s the Jonas brothers - and we all now that Nick left them all in the dust with these photos). In the meantime, check out Mr. Amell’s offerings.

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The Lion Comes In

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March. Month of miraculous transformation. How we have waited for you to turn the page on winter. Oh yes, I realize with much chagrin that there are still a few weeks to go – and likely the most difficult ones. Every winter snowstorm that arrives after this becomes more and more trying, testing the patience and endurance of the most jaded Northeastern denizen. I’m thoroughly sick of this shit, and have been for some time, but I’ll hold on because we’re accustomed to it. We can manage.

To commemorate this first day of the month in which spring finally pokes through the snow, a look back at March moments from the past. Let’s begin with the most recent of them, such as this two-parter when I was Boston. Part One simply must happen again, and Part Two most definitely will. I miss Boston immensely in this winter of frozen dreams and snow-bound streets.

The Ass Menagerie.

I Love Bois.

March is a good month for gingers. (Like every month, really.)

It was also the month that found the release of ‘Like A Prayer’ by Madonna.

More importantly, it’s the month of change.

Going back two years, March moments included the Magic of Mann, the wonder of ‘Ray of Light‘, the magnificence of Scott Herman, the amazing Alex Minsky, and this erotic erection collection. March also rang with music, and the music of spring always touches a deeper part of the heart.

March also means Easter bunny mayhem. (Still recovering…)

One final March post is from 2012 when we were in the throes of MDNA madness. We’re almost there again, thanks to Rebel Heart. Hold tight…

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Voodoo, Taboo, Sex & Juji: Special Guest Blog

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{There are a few people in this world who have literally saved my life. Back in my high school days, that was Ann Agresta. When I was on the verge of suicidal madness, and my own family didn’t know what to do with me, I found solace and refuge in my friendship with Ann. She too was an outsider, she too felt like she didn’t belong, and when people like that are lucky enough to find one another at their lowest moments, the attraction and the need is instant and gratifying. Her Mom became a surrogate Mom to me (as so many did for reasons I’m still fathoming) and her friendship became a lifeline for some of the roughest years to follow. Whenever I’m feeling upset or overwhelmed by the world, I think of Ann. I think of our craziest and silliest times and it always manages to lift me out of the funk. When I asked her to write something for this blog, I expected something funny, but I didn’t exact to be so deeply moved too. Here is her entry, and an incriminating photo of the time I wore handcuffs and ladies lingerie. Some things never change – and I hope they never do.}

SPECIAL GUEST BLOG

By Ann Agresta

What can I say about a man I have been friends with for over 25 years? So many memories flood back to me when I think of all the years we have known each other. The bond between true friends never breaks, and I consider Alan to be a true friend. We can go years without contact, but the minute we see, email, text, Facebook or Instagram each other, it is like no time has passed at all. And that is when you know you have a true friendship. I just mentioned all the forms of social media one may use to keep in touch with friends, but my favorite is still old fashioned physical MAIL! And I like to think that Alan instilled that love of mail inside of me! The packages that I received from Alan while attending RIT caused quite a stir and I loved every minute of it. There was glitter, questionable pictures, some things I may have even blocked out of my memory. But while I was away at college and still very homesick, getting mail from Alan would cheer up any bad day I may have been having.

The closeness that I had with Alan started in high school. Missy and Alan were my best friends. We were the three musketeers, we always did everything together. High school in general wasn’t my favorite social place; I was not part of the popular groups, I was very overweight, constantly made fun of for that, never had a boyfriend and never attended a prom or senior ball. But the one thing I did have was a few true friends that never judged me. We had a bond that wasn’t based on looks or popularity. There are things that I have told Alan that no one else in the world knows about me and I would trust him with my life.

When we all went our separate ways to college, I knew we would still remain close. And Alan’s love for traveling kept our friendship alive. One of my first memories of college was Alan telling me he was gay. Now, he did date Missy in high school which is a story for a different day! But when Alan told me the “news” I didn’t blink an eye. It wasn’t news to me because sexuality doesn’t define anything in my eyes. It didn’t change how I felt about him. The one thing it did do was make me feel proud that he trusted me enough to tell me. I remember a lot of dark emails from Alan in our early years in college. I think we all went through dark times but Alan’s talented writing skills made his emails seem so mysterious and made the dark times seem even darker. I did worry about my friend, sometimes he seemed so alone at Brandeis. The only thing I could do for him was offer an ear when he needed to talk and have a blast with him when he visited me in Rochester. And oh boy, did we have some good times. A few highlights include: scaring children at Ponderosa because of the outfit Alan had on, me walking Alan on a leash in a grocery store in Potsdam, NY while he was wearing a pink bra as a belt, us rushing onto the dance floor at a drag show when “Be My Lover” by La Bouche came on over the speaker, us cracking up together at the most inappropriate times. With just one look, Alan could make me laugh until it hurt! I do recall Alan ran over a curb in a parking lot while visiting me in Rochester and almost tore off the entire bottom of his car, but I had no part in that incident.

One of my most cherished parts of my friendship with Alan is his friendship with my mom. Because we spent so much time together, my mom loved Alan so much. She would do anything for him and with him. Case in point, she bought him the Madonna ‘Sex’ book when it came out because we were not old enough to get it! She posed for countless pictures and photo shoots with Alan. We have the pictures to prove it. I just found one the other night from the 1990’s where Alan is in a cape and my mom was taking pictures of him outside at night. And that all seems perfectly normal to me. No matter what kind of picture Alan asked any of us to pose for, we did it. I am not sure why, but it was just sort of an unsaid thing – Alan wanted pics, we did it! I posed in front of a ‘Sunset Boulevard’ poster in NYC and mimicked the pose of the character on the poster because Alan asked. Seemed perfectly normal to me. And again, that is what a good friendship is – doing things that your friend asked, no questions asked! Well, there were some more questionable moments that I probably should have not went along with, but we won’t get  into that here!

When my mom had brain surgery, Alan stopped by the house to visit while she was still recovering and her face lit up. Moments like that are never forgotten. That was a very stressful time for me, but just one look from Alan, one private joke, and we reverted back to giggling children.

I could write for days about all the memories I have with Alan. The bottom line is we will be friends forever, through good and bad, and I know that if I needed Alan at 2 AM he would be there for me and vice versa. I can hardly believe we will both be 40 years old this August. At times when I am reminiscing with Alan, I feel like I am 16 years old again.  The memories bring me back to the days when life seemed simple, when the biggest decision we had to make was what color feather boa we were going to use in our photo shoot. As I type that, I am laughing because life may be more complicated now, but Alan is still deciding what color feather boa to wear in the next photo shoot!!! And that is just one of many reasons why I love him so!

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Hunk of the Day: Levi Stocke

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Behold the beard, and I’m not talking about the kind that Aaron Schock and Kevin Spacey are looking to sport these days. I’m talking about the thick thatch of fur upon the handsome face of Hunk of the Day Levi Stocke. Coupled with a healthy mane, Mr. Stocke’s strongest suit may be the one created by his hair. The generous spattering of ink is an addendum that some will love and some could leave. I’m on the fence about this one – it serves his look well, I think. We’ll check back in twenty years and see if we still agree.

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When In Doubt, Do A Daley

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Tom Daley, that is. He hasn’t been here in a bit, but whenever a few new Speedo shots come out, he’s worth another post. After all, he’s one of the few select gentlemen (and woman) who constitutes his own Category. [See also David Beckham, Ben Cohen, Tom Ford, Andy and Madonna.]

Former Tom Daley posts include this one of him in a Speedo, this one of him in a Speedo, this one of him in a Speedo, this one of him in a Speedo, this one of him OUT of a Speedo, this one of him in a Speedo, this one of him in a Speedo, and this one of him in a Speedo.

Oh yeah, and this one of him in a Speedo.

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Mark MacKillop: The Solitary Masterpiece

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You do not need to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet. ~ Franz Kafka

The empty room.

The sound of solitude.

The languorous shifting of light.

The art of being alone has produced works of staggering beauty. Only when faced with ourselves can we get to understand what we are really like. You have to be all right with being alone before you can be good company for anyone else. There’s a gorgeous irony in that, and it’s explored pictorially in Mark MacKillop’s coffee-table book ‘Room XIV.’ Released a few months ago, Mr. MacKillop has been making the book tour rounds and putting in appearances at bookstores to spread the pretty word. Reaction has been supportive and enthusiastic.

“I’ve been most surprised by people’s love of the book,” MacKillop explains. “It was a really fun project that when I started it had no real intention for it to become a book or continue like this. I love that people are interested in seeing my life touring with a musical depicted in hotel rooms. I don’t think anything really bothered me about this process because that’s all part of the learning curve of trying something new you haven’t done before, like publishing a book. It’s all been a really cool learning experience.”

You can get help from teachers, but you are going to have to learn a lot by yourself, sitting alone in a room. ~ Dr. Seuss

The book itself is a beautiful study on the human form, but also the human condition of solitude. There is a loneliness at work, but a contentment in that loneliness. There is also a sense of connection, or trying to make some connection. He reaches out with his gaze, seeking to impress with a pose, and the end result is a complex examination of the human condition, veiled in the gauze of beauty. According to MacKillop, it was an invitation: “Very rarely do people get a glimpse into the life of a touring actor’s day-to-day life.  I wanted to be able to share that with my friends who were across the Atlantic and any new friends that I met on the road. It was my way of being creative and letting people into my world.”

When you get into a hotel room, you lock the door, and you know there is a secrecy, there is a luxury, there is fantasy. There is comfort. There is reassurance. ~ Diane von Furstenberg

In a world of social media overload and online-only interactions, a physical book feels old-school and quaint. It lends a warmth and sturdiness to the experience, something that will never quite be matched by the cold glare of a computer screen. A photograph on paper somehow resonates more than an image on screen. It demands a bit more.

“I love the physical appeal of a heavy book,” MacKillop admits, offering insight into the technicalities of the creative process. “There’s something awesome about physically turning pages, feeling the texture of the paper. That was an important factor when I was choosing what textures went into my book. I chose a paper that had some weight and feeling to it. I didn’t want a high gloss page I wanted the book to feel like it was from a different time, the pages really soak up the ink of the image. That being said as much as I love traditional books the Internet has made it so incredibly easy to share new images instantly so there’s an appeal for both, my love for the physical and the instant.”

That juxtaposition has made the marketing for the book an interesting amalgamation of teasing shots, evocative video, and traditional in-person bookstore signings.

I used to live in a room full of mirrors; all I could see was me. I take my spirit and I crash my mirrors, now the whole world is here for me to see. ~ Jimi Hendrix

When confronted with the question of whether he is happier alone or surrounded by people, MacKillop straddles both states. “Everything in moderation,” he says. “Sometimes I crave the interaction and conversation of others. Although sometimes after a long day nothing is more nice than being alone. They say you can’t truly be happy with others till you are happy and content by yourself.”

All men’s miseries derive from not being able to sit in a quiet room alone. ~ Blaise Pascal

Which brings us back to that room, where a man stands by himself, gazing out at the world, at the mirror, at the camera lens. It is a moment of reflection, of solitude, of seeking out some understanding of his place here. It is his way of connecting, through the portal of a look, a photograph, a book.

“Being alone was the premise of the project. The year on tour with ‘West Side Story’ was a demanding year both physically and emotionally. It was a big year of personal and artistic growth. I spent a lot of time alone thinking. People always comment, ‘Oh you look deep in thought in the photos.’ That’s what I wanted to capture, that moment.”

 

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Hunk of the Day: Jay Khan

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Singer/songwriter Jay Khan is the Hunk of the Day, mostly for his willingness to get “nackt” – or naked - particularly in videos like the one below. There’s a powerful message in there as well, but since I don’t speak German I have no idea what it might be. The images speak for themselves.

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I’m Having a Fashion Moment

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Picked up my crown, put it back on my head

Some days you just have to get into a silly get-up and strut your own fabulousness ~ even, and especially, if no one else is around. Such was the case with this quick photographic moment. I’m supposed to be working on a new project, but I’m a little rusty, so I took this jacket out for a spin in front of a black backdrop.

As always, the best part came when I got to take the tie off. That’s usually the best part of any day.

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An Antidote for the Bleakness

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Having previously pooh-poohed the notion of flowers on Valentine’s Day (cologne will always be the wiser choice) I had forgotten how much a bouquet of bright flowers can lift the darkest spirit in these bleakest of winter days. When we recently had a few people over for dinner, I went out and bought these flowers, and they’ve made a noticeable difference in the house. For such a simple thing, the rewards have proven to be substantial. Maybe I’m just so starved for greenery and flowers anything would have made this magnificent difference. Whatever the cause, I’m enjoying the little burst of spring and boost of spirits.

It’s amazing the power that a flower can hold over the countenance and the mental state of those of us starting to feel the winter blues. I spent a while just staring at each of the blooms here, studying the veins of each petal, the curves of the stems, the texture of the leaves.

It was the color that inspired me the most. Rich, vibrant, bold and beautiful – the perfect remedy for a gray and white landscape. Sensory overload in the best possible way. A moment of visual giddiness.

This is why we need a garden room. So many ills could be instantly cured by a few hours in such surroundings. Beauty is a balm for the most restless of hearts.

Until that day, a bouquet will have to suffice… and, somehow, it does.

 Flowers really do intoxicate me. ~Vita Sackville-West

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Hunk of the Day: Ronnie Kroell ~ A Trifecta

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The very first triple-time crowning of Hunk of the Day goes fittingly to Ronnie Kroell, whom readers chose as their favorite from a quick Survey Monkey poll. I have to admit, I voted for him too, but my vote doesn’t count any more than anyone else’s, so Mr. Kroell won it fairly and of his own merit (and a rather wide margin). The greatest Hunks aren’t just those with physical gifts and attributes – they contribute to society or lead stellar lives in ways other than the superficial. Beauty certainly counts for something, but it’s not everything, and that’s why Mr. Kroell deserves this honor.

He just made a stunning, sweet, and sexy appearance as the Tin Man in Kenyth Morgan’s fantastical ‘Unlock Your Heart’ video – and it’s a perfect melding of character and charm for the original King of Heart.

Kroell has long championed artists and charitable causes, often blurring the line between beauty and charity in the most hopeful of ways. His Friend Movement is testament to this. Offering “a multi-media arts company that celebrates friendship, builds confidence, and prevents bullying,” the Friend Movement is based on these core values: Forgiveness, Respect, Inspiration, Education, Nurturing, Dreaming.

Ronnie Kroell had been individually working on creating a grassroots movement that would aim to celebrate our diversity and prevent bullying, but more importantly it would focus on the things we all share in common. He merged his ideas and worked with his friends to conceive Friend Movement.

Today Friend Movement offers a wide variety of services not limited to, but including: Motivational Speakers, Consulting Services, and The New F Word Photo Campaign.  Ronnie Kroell continues to nurture and cultivate relationships with a wide array of organizations along with an impressive catalogue of celebrity support.  Friend Movement continues to pursue its founding values and ideas as it advances into the future with the support and dedication of an incredible team of creative individuals and the unconditional support of countless individuals worldwide that keep the momentum going.

We are living in a time where social networking has become a part of daily life; integrated into all aspects of what we do as human beings.   Friend Movement’s constant evolution on how we view media and the needs of society, coupled with our core values and our mission statement, gives us incredible opportunities to be innovative, creative, and playful with our art and ideas. ~ FRIEND MOVEMENT

He recently posted the following poem on his website, and it offers a peek into the psyche and vulnerability of what’s behind the pretty face:

BORN NAKED

By Ronnie Kroell 

We’re born naked and awake,

But slowly our eyes are coaxed shut.

Fear and limitation created for power’s sake,

Not a mystery why we fall in a rut.

 

We’re not all that different you and I,

But in our mind we draw the lines.

I fit here, you fit there, but do we ever ask WHY?

We dare not step outside the confines.

 

Life is about living our truth,

Embracing the light and dark.

We strive daily to grasp the magic of our youth,

Working diligently to leave our mark.

 

The secret is to let go and simply “BE”;

Nothing in life is black and white.

So, let us take a lesson from a tree,

Standing still and embracing its might!

 

We are all connected under the sun,

But before we can know PEACE —

An inner battle must be won.

Gratitude must prevail and ego must cease.

 

Ready, set, GO!

This is your day to truly shine.

Don’t let their no be your no;

Work hard and trust the stars will align!

 

 

 

 

 

Congratulations to Ronnie on this triple achievement! It couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy – and for once I can say that without a bit of snark or sarcasm. Good guys bring that out in me – and everyone else. For more information on Ronnie and his Friend Movement, check out his website here.

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The Great Crepe Caper

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(Try saying that three times in quick succession.)

This is neither a disaster nor a striking success story – it falls somewhere between the two and involves my first attempt at crafting a crepe. I’ve never really been a fan of the fancy pancake – my mind has never quite gotten itself around where it’s meant to fall on the sweet versus savory spectrum (I love a good spectrum). I know there are both, but I like something a little less malleable in my food options. At any rate, I found a quick and easy (and quite basic) recipe in a recent New York Times magazine, and it went like this:

UNMEASURED CREPES

Very adapted from ‘Ratio’ by Michael Ruhlman

1 vessel whole raw eggs

1 vessel all-purpose flour

1 3/4 vessel whole milk

1/4 vessel sweet butter

Dash to pinch of salt

1. Beat eggs. Add ingredients and whisk. Add salt and taste.

2. Heat nonstick pan or lightly oiled one on medium heat. Add ladleful of batter, just enough to thinly coat bottom of pan. Cook until edges begin to brown, maybe 30 seconds. Flip, with conviction, and cook ten more seconds.

3. Cook as many as desired, stacking on plate and covering with cloth towel until ready to serve.

4. Savory variation: chop up fresh herbs – parsley, mint, and/or dill – and add to batter before cooking. (As much as you like.)

I gave it a whirl and it didn’t turn out badly. I love a simple recipe with a simple preparation. This time around the trickiest part was flipping the damn things, but even that went better than expected. Only two didn’t quite work out, and that’s because of early hesitation on my part. You have to commit to the flip. It has to be certain and definite, and a little bold. Any fear or hesitancy will not go over well. After a few tries, I found that the higher the crepe went in the air, the better chance I had of landing it perfectly. At first I was trying to keep it low and close to the pan. Go for the gusto and you’ll be fine.

As for the end result, I was pleased but not blown away. The first attempt was too thick – I’d used too much batter – and the crepe was a bit rubbery. After that, I cut down on the batter, keeping it very thin and spreading it around, at which point the traditional light and fluffy crepe consistency was achieved. My only complaint was that with such a quick cooking time, I still tasted a bit of raw flour. I wouldn’t have minded this so much with a sweet version, but in a savory style (I’d opted to add the fresh parsley) it was mildly annoying. (I know nothing about crepes – eating or making them – so I’m sure there are mistakes I made that contributed to the general ho-hum aspect of the whole process.) Perhaps FUSSYlittleBLOG or Carl can help a novice out with some tips…

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