The Catalyst

A Writing Teacher Writes (plus some writing prompts and recipes)

Have your cake and eat it too November 29, 2013

Filed under: Recipes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 11:07 am
Maple-Pumpkin stack cake

I had to post this “day after” pumpkin cake recipe, because it just seems too perfect. It looks easy to prepare, so for all you novice bakers, this is your cake! I got the recipe from Chris Kimball, host of the PBS show America’s Test Kitchen, via an NPR. Check out the link here for more fall recipes.

Here are a couple of prompts to go with this recipe:

What’s the matter, pumpkin?

It’s my birthday and I can cry if I want to

Your feelings are seasonally appropriate

Maple-Pumpkin Stack Cake

Makes 1 cake

1 1/2 cups (7 1/2 ounces) all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/4 cups (8 3/4 ounces) sugar

8 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled

3 large eggs

1 (15-ounce) can unsweetened pumpkin puree

1 1/2 cups heavy cream, chilled

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 8-inch round cake pans, line with parchment paper. Grease parchment and flour pans.

Whisk flour, pumpkin pie spice, baking powder, baking soda, and salt together in bowl. Using stand mixer fitted with paddle, beat sugar, butter, and eggs on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Reduce speed to low, add pumpkin, and mix until incorporated. Slowly add flour mixture and mix until only few small flour streaks remain, about 30 seconds.

Spread one-fourth of batter (about 1 cup) in even layer in each prepared pan. Bake until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, 12 to 14 minutes. Let cool on wire rack for 10 minutes. Invert each cake onto large plate, peel off parchment, and invert again onto lightly greased rack. Cool completely. Reprep pans and repeat with remaining batter.

Using dry, clean bowl and whisk attachment, whip cream and maple syrup together on medium speed until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Place 1 cake layer on cake plate or pedestal, then spread one-fourth of whipped cream (scant cup) evenly over top. Repeat with remaining cake layers and whipped cream. Sprinkle pecans on top and serve.


Painful Awakenings November 2, 2013

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 3:17 pm

The prompt this time was, “Absurd Modifiers.” For an explanation of this prompt, see this link to an earlier post. The prompt leaves you with some crazy word combinations. Some of the ones I used for the piece below include, “wistful worm, a delicious conundrum,” and “awakened limbo.”

Enjoy.                                                                                                        The-Cat-in-the-Hat


This self-aware crap isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, let me tell you that right off. I think the clueless drones living in double-stuffed oblivion are happier, really, than those of us who study the Dharma and aim for enlightenment. I wish I could be one of those commuters stuck in morning traffic on some obnoxious suspension bridge, listening to mindless radio, plotting their fast food lunch and their weekend BBQ. But I’m that wistful worm who keeps trying to detach and be present and feel gratitude. Instead, I often escape into fantasies and rotund hope: the hamster in the wheel syndrome. I’m spinnin’, right ’round baby, right ’round (like a record, baby).

I’d like to blame it on someone: Dr. Seuss or Ogden Nash, or James Baldwin, John Steinbeck—any of the writers who made me dream about what a life of books might mean. The lyricists worked their way in there too: Cole Porter, Joni Mitchell, even Madonna eventually had something to say beyond, “Get up and do your thing!”

And then there were the teachers: that Lit teacher Sophomore year who said, “You are a writer,” or the Psych teacher who introduced us to Leo Buscaglia and Jung. My Freshman Comp teacher in college who wrote me my first letter of recommendation and then sat down next to me in a Shakespeare class.

There was Nina B, who invited me to her grown-up parties and showed me that growing up didn’t mean you couldn’t still have fun.

I love and curse them all, because if I hadn’t met any of them, I could be a happy house-husband now in some fag-friendly suburb north of LA, with two snot-nosed kids and a Labradoodle. I could be a choreographer in children’s theater who wears too much jewelry and drinks too much Chablis. Instead, I’ve got the double duty of being aware that there’s more to life than the punchcard, but I still can’t seem to do the work consistently, so live in a kind of awakened limbo. What next? What next?

I am so busy worrying about following my path and looking for a sign from the Universe (God, Allah, whatever you want to call that life force, that power that directs this crazy show), I’m so busy trying to listen in some quiet space that I don’t even have a moment to do just that: sit and listen.

It’s a beautiful, delicious conundrum, this life of eating and preparing good food, drinking wine with friends, falling in love again and again, traveling, exploring, having great lovers (occasionally), dancing to familiar music. I love all of it, but it can give me a beautiful migraine too, trying to find meaning in the here and now, trying to accept loss and let go of control while still making goals, reaching forward, and developing new, healthier habits.

I get so tired of it sometimes, I really do.


Oh, Love.

Filed under: Vignettes,Writing Prompts + — Christopher P. DeLorenzo @ 3:17 pm


I wrote the following piece after offering the list prompt: 5 Kinds of Love (for an explanation of that prompt, click on that highlighted title). A few prompts I was working with:

Love is bloody

Love is a know-it-all

Love won’t shut up

What I wrote is below.


Sit down, love. It’s time for that talk. I know, I know: we’ve had it before. But we’re going to have it again.

I want to begin by saying, I love you, Love. I really do. And as much as I complain about your omnipresence in Hollywood movies and sometimes envy young couples holding hands in the mall, I still think we have a chance. I haven’t given up on you, Love. But here’s the deal: you talk too much, Love; you’re too conspicuous. You’re in my head space, and, well, I’m tired of it. You’re everywhere, Love, and nowhere, too, and to be quite honest, I don’t want to wait around listening to you chatter on about everyone else, and how hot that guy in DC is (the truth is, Love, it’s all subjective, and he ain’t all that).

I’ve given up a lot for you, Love. I missed out on the joy of weddings; I’ve been absent at my own table at the airport while I ate my own lunch. I walked in the shadow of towering marble columns reflecting orange sunsets and all I could think about was your absence. I’ve even walked down streets in Rome without really seeing the beautiful suits and ties in the windows, the lined faces of the tailors, the almond and pistachio cookies stacked up in the bakery windows. I’ve walked down cobblestone streets in beautiful foreign cities and I haven’t been able to see them because I was too busy waiting for you to show up. I’ve made love to bad kissers; I’ve been stood up for coffee dates, for sleepovers, for micro plates of calamari and artisan cocktails, and all because I thought you’d finally show up ready to give yourself to me.

I’m losing my way here, Love.

So let’s just leave it at this: stop inviting me to Paris, Love. Don’t dust any more heart-shaped cakes with pink powdered sugar and promise to share them with me in mid-February. Don’t promise me anything, Love. Give me back my house keys, stop testing me, and un-friend me on Facebook. I love your handsome face and that gorgeous smile, the way you roll your r’s, and give idioms new life. But I’d prefer to live without these expectations you always ignite.

I’d like to take a long hot bath alone. I want to have a group of close friends over for meatloaf. I want to sleep in the middle of the bed with the thermostat set exactly where I want it. I want to spend Saturday morning reading a book—an entire book—without waiting for you to call, or meeting you for coffee. I want to look in the mirror and tell myself I have beautiful eyes, even when my eyelids are oily, even when I haven’t curled my eyelashes. I want to be beautiful again without you, Love.

And so I ask you, this first time, I ask you politely, once and for all, please, please be quiet.