Julie Anne Rhodes

It is indeed my fault that I absent mindedly left my computer on the back seat of the taxi. Believe me, I have not stopped kicking myself since. I was tired and had a lot on my mind. I saw there was a man anxiously waiting for the cab outside my hotel so I hurried, making a horrid mistake. However, when the “gentleman” failed to notify the taxi driver of his fortuitous find, then walked off with it into the night and didn’t turn it in, the computer legally went from lost to stolen goods.


My frustration is that we were surrounded by NYPD. After watching me stand there in tears long into the wee hours, naively hoping the passenger would be honest and the taxi driver would return – many officers and plain clothes detectives offered me advice that I followed to the letter.

Security for the president directly across from my hotel

I called 311 as advised, filed a report, kept checking back with the 17th and 22nd precincts every hour to see if it had been turned in, will continue to do so, and spoke with the TLC as soon as they opened the next morning to trace the driver who says the passenger never mentioned the computer. The driver does have the man’s drop off address, and the hotel security cameras will have footage of the man getting into the taxi.

Jewels and the computer before the loss

Losing a computer is far different to losing a wallet. Money can be earned again and credit cards are easily replaced. Precious photos, all of my recipes (for some reason they did not back-up properly on my external hard drive), several blog posts, and chapters of the book that were not yet backed-up since I was still traveling are all gone. The loss far outweighs any monetary value. I would happily buy the man a brand new computer just to recover my data! I am gutted and struggling with letting it go.

I can’t believe I am grieving a thing!I keep reminding myself what a fortunate person I am – I’m healthy, I had some amazing meetings with publishers, fun with friends, got to take part in an awesome event, and saw fabulous art while in New York, so the trip was successful (even if I can’t share it with you pictorially). I still feel tremendous loss.

PLEASE, if you are reading this, and still have my computer – please, please, PLEASE contact me to arrange for it’s safe return. That data is useless to you, but so very dear to me. Please do the right thing, and you will be heavily rewarded. I give you my word that I will not press charges in exchange for finding the kindness in your heart to return it to me.

Still kicking myself. Photo by the Tatjana Rhodes

Apart from precious childhood photos lost, there were the incredible WIE Symposium photos, superb photos of Mario Batali’s new Eataly, and spectacularly surreal ones my cousin helped me take at the MoMA’s Modern Kitchen exhibition for the blog. I will still write about those adventures in the weeks to come, but have to apologize in advance for the lack of photos. I hope the departure from my blogs’ usual formula will not be too off-putting, and I still have not given up faith that the computer will resurface.

My great cyber friend, Aussie Mum, had this comforting advice from the Zen philosophy to say about my misfortune which translates as, ‘Touch the hole in your life, and there the flowers will bloom’. Okay, thank you for letting me vent, I still hold hope in my heart, and it is now time to move on and let those flowers bloom!

Back in LA, still hopeful but moving on

PS. After a week filled with travel inconveniences and disruptions due to staying across the street from the president (in New York to address the UN), I’m happy to report I was able to find my humor again when my flight home was also delayed by our commander and chief. Air Force One decided to take our scheduled departure slot, so once again our paths crossed and delays ensued. If I didn’t know better, I’d think President Obama was stalking me.

All of this calls for a little indulgence, and what better comfort food than my favorite cake? Especially when it originates from the very hotel President Obama stayed in (and indeed all our presidents stay in when in New York), the Waldorf Astoria. It is the only presidential suite in New York city approved by the secret service, most likely due to the easily secured wider entrances into the presidential quarters.

The Waldorf Astoria Red Velvet Cake

Serves: 12

Ingredients:

For the cake
1/2 cup Crisco
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 ounces red food color
2 teaspoons cocoa
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the icing
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup milk
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 tablespoon vanilla

Directions:

For cake
1). Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease 2 – 9″ cake pans, or 3 – 8″ cake pans.

2). Cream together Crisco and sugar in a large mixing bowl with electric beater, then and eggs and beat until light and fluffy.

3). Mix red food color and cocoa in small bowl, and add to mixture in #2.

4). Mix salt into buttermilk; then add to mixture #2 alternately with flour. Using the fold setting on the beaters, end with flour.

5). Add vanilla, soda, and vinegar (in that order). Beat 2-3 minutes after everything is added.
6). Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of cake layers comes out clean. Remove from oven and let stand in pans for 10 minutes before turning out onto cake racks to cool. Cool completely.

For icing:
7). Add flour to a large saucepan, then add milk gradually , stirring until smoothly blended. Cook milk and flour over medium heat until thickened to the consistency of oatmeal. Cool completely before continuing on.

8). Beat room temperature butter and sugar for 15 minutes, using a timer, until butter becomes pale yellow. Add vanilla, then fold the cooled flour-milk mixture into the butter cream icing.

9). Spread just enough icing over bottom layer(s) to secure next layer on top, then ice entire cake and decorate as you please.

TIP: You can substitute any color you like for the red…my daughter’s favorite color was blue, so she always had a Blue Velvet (one of her father’s favorite films) Cake for her birthday.

Note: The next time I make this cake I am going to try substituting coconut oil for the shortening. It will certainly be heart healthier even if it isn’t any figure friendlier.

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  • September 26, 2010
    9:47 pm

    'm so sorry to hear that you were robbed, Julie Anne. I hope that you had some of your info backed up somewhere and it's not lost completely.Justine Owls

  • September 26, 2010
    9:48 pm

    It really is a shame that the cabbie or whomever found your computer couldn't be honest enough to turn it in.Dorah Caulfield

  • September 26, 2010
    9:51 pm

    Thanks Justine – I had back-up, but most of it failed. The hard drive must have been unreliable unbeknownst to me. Really difficult pill to swallow.I think the cabbies was honest, and I'm still hoping the passenger will do the right thing after all Dorah.

  • September 26, 2010
    9:52 pm

    I think it's safe to say, 2010 is NOT your year! I am so sorry your computer is gone. That's shitty.Alison Sherman

  • September 26, 2010
    9:53 pm

    I hope that you find it soon!Isabel Ortiz Bernad

  • September 26, 2010
    9:53 pm

    OH, it is. 🙁 *hugs*Rhonda Davis Crombie

  • September 26, 2010
    9:54 pm

    It has certainly been a challenging year, but along with the lows come the highs. I still think it will turn out to be a great year for me.

  • September 26, 2010
    9:57 pm

    Awwww that is so not right. I got a sick feeling in my stomach reading that. Its on of my biggest fears. I so hope this guy finds a heart and some how you get it back :(Tracy Williams Walls

  • September 26, 2010
    9:57 pm

    The screen on my laptop broke and it deffo SUCK big style to not be able to be on a laptop!Ellis Mulder

  • September 26, 2010
    10:00 pm

    Awwww! I am sorry for the loss of your computer :(Charity Swedberg

  • September 26, 2010
    10:00 pm

    and its a Mac – dang!Pam Hodges-Schock

  • September 26, 2010
    10:01 pm

    I think your right.Its going to be a Fantastic year for you.I see many many Blessings coming your way :)Christine Robinson Honaker

  • September 26, 2010
    10:39 pm

    What a bummer! Hope you get it back.

  • September 26, 2010
    11:44 pm

    Such a shame 🙁 ! I'm hoping it will be returned to you.Michele Hibbeler Frame

  • September 26, 2010
    11:46 pm

    Crossing my fingers for you..Joe DiMaggio Jr

  • September 26, 2010
    11:51 pm

    Hey Joe – the only pictures still on my camera were from my dinner at Ippudo. Now that is good karma after the two hour wait for the table.

  • September 27, 2010
    12:30 am

    I'm SO sorry that someone took your computer but I am holding a bit of hope that it will be returned to you safe and sound with all of your data intact!2011 is going to be a FAB year for you – I just know it! 🙂

  • September 27, 2010
    12:34 am

    I hope you get it back. Here's to a fantastic year. I've had a tough year too.Eileen Ikuta

  • September 27, 2010
    12:35 am

    I know Eileen – are you feeling better yet? If you haven't already, try a gluten free diet. It did help with the inflammation of my broken ankle.

  • September 27, 2010
    1:15 am

    I feel so badly about your loss! Hopefully, the hotel's camera footage will help the police along with the address the gentleman(NOT)was dropped at. Things will get better for you, I just feel it. You've gone through everything so gracefully that some good fortune must be in store for you. Take care and please, don't beat yourself up. We've all left things behind and often were fortunate enough to get them returned. So, know that you're in good company! Big cyber hug!

  • September 27, 2010
    2:07 am

    hope everything turns out ok…..:)…sending positive vibes your way…Denise Van Ness

  • September 27, 2010
    2:10 am

    Thank you everyone for all of the good thoughts and support!

  • September 27, 2010
    2:28 am

    Hey Jewels,Still thinking about you and the whole event that unfolded. Reading the whole story was just so gut wrenching. I can honestly feel your frustration and huge sense of loss. However I am still holding onto the thought that good will prevail.Huge POSITIVE energy and thoughts coming your way from Down Under.Aussie Mum P.S.Thank you for the mention,it was so nice.

  • September 27, 2010
    2:41 am

    So sad. I know what this means to you. Crossing my fingers, hoping for a miracle.

  • September 27, 2010
    4:16 am

    Jewels, here is hoping that the computer ends up back in your lap. What a pain. Hugs.Jessica Cahen Mintz

  • September 27, 2010
    4:17 am

    Sorry to hear of what happened to your computer.I have LoJack for Laptops for mine. Luckily, I've not needed it yet.Mark Downie

  • September 27, 2010
    5:32 am

    Sweets, while I am so sorry for the sense of loss you are experiencing, I feel the need to liven the room with a joke:President Obama is stalking you? Maybe he's a closet Duranie and just wants to know how to get a hold of Nick so he can get some make-up tips…:)SF

  • September 27, 2010
    6:13 am

    SavannahFaith you made my day! Hilarious.

  • September 27, 2010
    7:14 am

    Good you got it for the new one. Hope you won'tneed it. 🙂 Still hope your old computer finds its way back to you.Mark Downie

  • September 27, 2010
    9:16 am

    Oh no! How horrible for you – I can sympathise – I dropped a wallet that I had by accident outside a supermarket and it wasn't the money that bothered me – it was a picture of my late dad I had in one of the pouches.My Fiancé had a very precious Bass Guitar stolen some years ago – he's a big Scott Adams fan and he committed himself to writing down an affirmation 20 times once a day saying he would get it back undamaged. Lo & behold 6 months later it surfaced – had been sold on twice – but all it needed was some tlc and a good cleaning.So as silly as it sounds in your current hour of need – there is always hope.Hugs and thoughts…..

  • September 27, 2010
    12:55 pm

    Julie Anne,My heart goes out to you! I know what you are feeling all too well as I went through a similar situation. One evening in Jan, ’09, I was writing in my journal which I do on my laptop, enjoying a glass of wine. I reached for my glass and knocked it over, the wine spilling right on my laptop! It just died and wouldn’t turn back on. The computer was 3 years old and I had never once backed-up. I thought that the countless journal entries and personal photos I had were lost. I was hysterical in tears; completely inconsolable. I had that similar feeling of just wanting to kick myself! I brought my laptop to the store where it was purchased, realizing that most likely there would be nothing they could do. The technicians weren’t very optimistic but said they would see what they could do. It was an agonizing few days of waiting but I was very fortunate that the hard drive was not damaged. The laptop was lost but they were able to retrieve my data onto disks. I so hope for you a very similar, happy outcome and you precious data finds its way back to you somehow. I know that it made me feel like my life was so out of control and that I had lost a bit of myself. I guess this is one of the consequences of the computer age. Perhaps it is the Universe’s way of forcing us to find that control and calm within when our external circumstances seem so uncontrollable. It sounds like you are handling this with an incredible amount of grace. My fingers are crossed!-Chrissy

  • September 27, 2010
    2:52 pm

    Jewels, I am praying that your computer finds it's way home. I know that when I lost my computer (a child accidentally dumped honey on it. mommy had to stand in a corner and breathe into a paper bag for an hour), it was huge…I realized a good part of my life was stored on there…and as I am a programmer and I had several half finished non-backed up programs for clients. Best investment ever…small portable hard drive with 1 Terabyte of space…though dear daughter says it's unfortunate design makes it look like I'm carrying around a whisky flask. lol…Mari

  • September 27, 2010
    3:18 pm

    Oh god Julie Anne I am so sorry. The world can be a real s**t-hole sometimes. I imagine it feels a little like your life has been stolen. I am sending good vibes your way and praying for the safe return of your computer.Charlotte in Nebraska

  • September 27, 2010
    4:44 pm

    I don't think you're grieving the "thing" so much as all the stuff it contains — your book, your recipes, all the WORK that it contains. Yes, you can re-create it all if you need to, but that so much work can be lost in a moment is terrifying and maddening.I hope you get some good news soon. You put so much positivity out into the world, you should get some back.

  • September 27, 2010
    5:21 pm

    Early last year my old desktop decided to blow a gasket and I found that traumatising. I cannot for the life of me imagine how you are feeling. I think you are grieving, you have lost work and photos and as its a labour of love its not surprising you feel like you do. I hope there is some positive news for you soon, but I do believe in karma so this person he will get his bad luck in due course.

  • September 27, 2010
    6:47 pm

    oh bummer. I don't believe it has not been returned, so sorry babe. horrid. hopefully they don't have your passwords but can still read your wall post if you open up your privacy for awhile….and make an appeal on your wall for anyone to see. xMarella Oppenheim

  • September 27, 2010
    6:49 pm

    Already done that, written a blog, and tweeted several times offering a hefty reward.

  • September 27, 2010
    7:44 pm

    Jewles sorry for your loss. Where do you think it might be?Stuart Drexler

  • September 27, 2010
    7:45 pm

    I think the guy that got into the taxi after me thought Xmas came early this year. Appealing to his heart and wallet by offering a big reward.

  • September 27, 2010
    10:18 pm

    Oh NOOOOO BFF!!!!!!!!!!!!! I can't believe it… this is awful, I'm sorry for you and I pray you get it back!!!! Miracles happen EVERY day babe, I pray it's for you today 🙂 xxxxxxxxxx'sSammy Phillips

  • September 28, 2010
    12:10 am

    i know i have had my wallet stolen… no its not the same. But imagine having it stolen on a vacation and you are stuck. no cash and no cards… nothing! it is terrifying! I do understand the loss of which you speak… i've lost dear photos on my computer due to back ups not functioning properly. As a photographic artist it was gut wrenching to lost original pieces of my own artwork. hysteria is definitely an understatement my dear jewels. I will pray and pray and pray that the person who stole your precious computer returns it to you undamaged. All my deepest thoughts and good wishes go out to you…. hugs!

  • September 28, 2010
    2:04 am

    I agree with Charlotte in Nebraska – that it must feel like your life has been stolen. I was reading the whole post with the back of my hand pressed to my forehead gasping in grief at each word. I am so keeping my fingers, toes, eyes, butt cheeks – EVERYTHING – crossed that you get it back. Mechelle

  • September 28, 2010
    4:41 am

    Ohhhh, I know what your going through. I got home late one night & couldn't be bothered to bring in my brief case & laptop, they were on the back seat under my coat…, next morning someone had put a brick through the window & got away with my computer…, until then I never would have known what all the fuss was about if one lost their computer.., and that was years ago…, I'm even worse now with almost all my life on my computers & back up systems. Totally get your grief & upset.

  • September 28, 2010
    5:18 am

    Julie Anne Rhodes said… SavannahFaith you made my day! Hilarious.

    You're welcome. And besides c'mon, can't you see it? President Obama putting on his eyeliner and dancing to Girls on Film in the Oval Office? Getting together with Benjamin Netanyahu and Salam Fayyad, watching Sing Blue Silver and squealing with glee when Nick says, "I started playing with mine…"We could absolutely resolve all the problems in the Middle East with the judicious application of hot Durans!!!I totally buy it!*grin*SF

  • September 28, 2010
    6:52 am

    Oh, and Biden isn't invited. He's into Culture Club.:) SF

  • September 28, 2010
    12:55 pm

    Oh no I hope you get it back soon. I always loved your blog entries and your photos and I would love to read your own book, someday.Good luck and the best wishes,Nadine. ♥

  • September 28, 2010
    3:53 pm

    I'm so sorry for you:-( I cross my fingers for you!Carmen

  • September 28, 2010
    3:54 pm

    Hey Photogoddess – Samy's Cameras managed to retrieve quite a few pics from my camera's wiped clean memory card. Of course I'm still missing the really cool surreal ones, but better than nothing – you should try it.Thanks Charolette and Nadine. I met with publishers while in New York, so hopefully a book soon!

  • September 28, 2010
    5:51 pm

    so sorry …when you're back with it or a new one, I can help set up clone backups on the two new (cheap) external hd's. so sorry …Madeleine Gallay

  • September 28, 2010
    5:51 pm

    Using my photo I see.Tatjana Rhodes

  • September 28, 2010
    5:51 pm

    crazy good photo …Madeleine Gallay

  • September 28, 2010
    5:52 pm

    Tatjana took it – thats why. I'm back and want to see you! What are you doing this Saturday? Writers pow wow at your place?

  • September 28, 2010
    5:52 pm

    Thank you so much for the Red Velvet Cake recipe. I am going to have my hubby and daughter make it for me for my birthday. I can't wait to taste it.Heather Goodman Finley

  • September 28, 2010
    5:53 pm

    As I was reading this post, my friend asked me for the red velvet recipe (I served the recipe as cupcakes at my birthday party and she fell in love.) Low and behold, I didn't even need to look the recipe up – it was at the end of your post! What a coincidence… 🙂 Thank you.Kim Phillips Cuccia

  • September 28, 2010
    5:54 pm

    SO well written BFF… I feel so violated FOR you… I just know a miracle will happen… I've been praying every day ~ xxxx'sSammy Phillips

  • September 28, 2010
    5:54 pm

    This photo looks so much like Tatjana, thought it was her for a secCarly Guerrero

  • September 28, 2010
    5:55 pm

    My hubby's bday is Oct 30th, he loves bannana cake but think this yr I will twist it into a red velvet bannanaCarly Guerrero

  • September 28, 2010
    5:55 pm

    OMG, Carly that sounds sooooooo good! Let me know how it comes out.

  • September 28, 2010
    5:57 pm

    love to … messaging you, crazy stuff here too, love …Madeleine Gallay

  • September 29, 2010
    2:23 am

    Dear Jewels, That would hurt! I will say a prayer to St. Anthony. He is the patron saint of lost articles. He really does listen. Hugs, Jan

  • September 29, 2010
    2:41 am

    Also, try hard not to kick yourself anymore. Easy to say, hard to do, I know. Everybody, I mean everybody, has done something similar to this, you are not alone. Press on, Dear Jewels, press on! Hugs, Jan

  • September 29, 2010
    4:03 pm

    Ugh! I realize I'm late on this comment, but I'm so sorry to hear about your lost computer! I would be absolutely gutted, despite all the reality checks about it being a "thing" rather than a loved one or pet, etc.I wanted to make cake recipe suggestions/modifications. Not to say that I'm any expert, but I've been cutting out cholesterol and fat from my cakes for several years. So, I wanted to add suggestions to help lighten (in fat content), and add to (in nutrient content) the cake recipe above. Eggs –Substitute 2 egg whites for each egg called for in the recipe (i.e., instead of 2 eggs, use 4 egg whites). Or, you may also substitute soy flour (1 heaping Tbsp soy powder + 2 Tbsp water = 1 egg) for your vegan friends. I'm not fond of the latter substitution on a regular basis, but it worked well when I tried it. I prefer using egg whites.Oil –Substitute fruit puree or vegetable puree for the oil (in equal parts, meaning if it calls for 1/2 cup of oil (or crisco like above), I instead use 1/2 cup of puree). Either unsweetened apple sauce or canned pumpkin puree are what I use. This not only cuts out fat, it adds fiber and other nutrients, and you'd never even know it was in there when you eat it.Optional (to add moistness) –Also, you can add a box of instant vanilla or chocolate pudding (dry, unprepared) to the dry ingredients to help with moistness. Maybe for red velvet cake, chocolate would work best. Note: This will add sugar, unless you use sugar free pudding mix.