Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Day 1 - In Transit

I've decided to try and post something small multiple times a week (in addition to my larger posts), whether it be a picture or just a small paragraph in an attempt to let you have a little picture of life abroad.   So here we are. 

And so the adventure begins.

Day 1 of my life as a 20 something vagabond. I've packed my bags, said goodbye to my family, and am in the airport waiting for my flight to Detroit.  I'll be in and out of the air for the next 20 hours or so.  Switzerland, here I come!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Adventures in Baking

I really really should be packing/cleaning/exercising/doing anything but this, but as usual, the creative muse has struck at the least opportune moment. And I must share. I can't help it, it's a force I simply cannot control.

I love to bake. Love it.  If I could do it for a job, I would. But let me be the first to tell you, I am NOT Betty Crocker, Martha Stewart, or the Pioneer Woman, by any means.  Some of my best baking efforts began with a Duncan Hines brownie mix. That said, I haven't had too many complaints on the finished product.

As usually happens when I am at home near my mother's fully stocked, well-lit kitchen, I got the urge to make something today. Fortunately, I have a brand new cupcake recipe book I've just been dying to try. The recipe? White Mountain Cupcakes. Have a look:
Chocolate Sour Cream cupcakes with meringue-like white frosting. mmmm.

Everything started out well.  Assembling the ingredients and mixing things together, substituting things like bittersweet chocolate for unsweetened chocolate because I'm far too lazy to go to the store. And stopping every ten minutes to take pictures because I like to pretend I'm a food photographer. Like so:
Every good food photographer takes pictures of partially chopped chocolate bars.

The delicious batter in Mom's trusty KitchenAid.

Hard at work! Bet you weren't expecting an action shot. Well, I aim to surprise.

As taking pictures every step of the way is rather time-consuming, it was a good hour before anything got in the oven. Ever the conscientious kitchen worker, I did the dishes while the lovelies baked. It was when the oven door opened again that I got a sneaking suspicion that this would not turn out like the picture.

Hmm. Are those delicate, fluffy cupcakes or giant exploding mushroom-like brownies?
Turns out you aren't supposed to fill the muffin tin to the tip top with batter.

Then I turned to the icing instructions.  I saw the words "separated egg whites" and "stiff peaks" and balked.  As all mature adults do in time of crisis, I promptly put down the recipe book and went and played Tetris until my mother came home.

Upon her return, I bravely faced the Food Network challenge again under her calm instruction.  After wasting half of a carton of eggs, I finally learned how to separate yolks and whites.  We poured the ingredients into the top half of a double boiler (yet another new age contraption I learned about!) and plugged in the electric mixer.  After a few seconds of whipping things into "stiff peaks", I glanced over at the other half of the double boiler simmering on the stove. This is what I saw:

Ok, I'm exaggerating.  It was more like a few plumes of smoke, gently curling up from the cord of the electric mixer.  Turns out I plugged it in and without thinking, stretched it across the open flame of the stove to the bowl on the other side. As generally happens when it comes in contact with fire, the plastic cord began melting through to the wire beneath. Fortunately I screamed, turned it off and Mom switched off the stove before we had a real electrical fire on our hands.  Some may say it was cutting off the source of the flame that stopped the fire but I know it was the force of my scream that halted nature at work.

Having ruined Mom's hand held mixer and every conceivable way of making meringue frosting, I gave up entirely and went with powdered sugar. Thus the finished product looks nothing like the picture in the book. Compare:

Guess which one is mine.

And so, household fires notwithstanding, I managed to make cupcakes that were passably delicious, though not at all what I had in mind. Plus, I still managed to take many sub-par food shots of the finished product.

All in a day's work!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Things I Love Thursday

Bonjour mes amies! Another long absence, my apologies. The months of July and August are fraught with travels and little to no Internet access. I still have stories about the trip to share, I haven't forgotten! For now, here is our regularly scheduled programming.

Things I love today....

(1) Sewing - Ok, this is a little premature.  I haven't sewed since I was in high school when I used to make quilted purses for myself and my friends and I loved it then.  I'm about to attempt it again.  Today I went and bought the pattern, fabric, and thread to make a skirt.  I figure a skirt is the single easiest item to sew, as it is simply (in theory) a circle of fabric.  With the help of my dear mother and her trusty Singer, I'm hoping that the "2 hour pattern" I chose really only takes 2 hours. It may end in tears and a pile of mangled fabric, but we're hoping for the best.

(2) Awesome and random images found on the web.

 ^^I want to be that guy.                                                                    ^^Thanks for this, Jilly.

(3) Vitamin String Quartet - They do classical compositions of modern songs. A while ago I posted a video of the LXD dancing to their version of Coldplay's "Yellow".  Today I discovered they have an entire album covering Lady Gaga songs.  Normally, I highly dislike Lady Gaga and everything she stands for, but her music is sonically pleasing once you remove her from the equation. Check out their cover of "Bad Romance".

Ahhh.  Makes me want to enjoy a cup of tea and then possibly a lively quadrille with Mr. Darcy.

(4) Conversations with the elderly - I promise I'm not setting up a joke about old people.  While I was in New Hampshire, I met an 87-year old man named Fred. He told me about his life and all the things he has lived through, including being drafted into WWII.  He had been coming to that particular place every year for 71 years.  I don't know what prompted him to introduce himself to me but I was so glad he did.  Too often I take older people for granted, consumed with people my own age and my own problems.  Aside from his family, almost everyone Fred knew his whole life has passed away, including his wife Blanche and his twin brother.  How hard it must be to come back to a place where you once knew everyone only to be surrounded by new, younger faces who don't share the same memories.  He sits on a bench and watches life move around him, now more of a spectator than a participant. Makes you think about your own life.  I'm thankful for my chat with Fred and the unspoken reminder to better appreciate the old folks.

  • Church convention
  • Pancakes with fresh blueberries for dinner. yuuuum.
  • Sleeping in a tent
  • Making Starburst wrapper chains like I did when I was 12
  • Making new friends
  • Reconnecting with old ones
  • my Larousse pocket dictionary
  • The illustrated guide to a PhD. Keep me humble, Sam.
  • La moulade by Henri Matisse. Someday I will have a large sunny living room, where a print of this will hang on the wall.
How's your Thursday?

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