Friday, May 16, 2014

Happy Weekend

Well my dears, I think I did a good job of breathing a little more life into the old blog this week, eh? Can't promise the posts will be this bountiful in the coming weeks but as life becomes a bit more ordered, I'll be able to spend the time I want and need into creating and sharing in my little corner of the Internet.

Do you have anything exciting planned for your weekend? Not me, I'm afraid.  This is the last weekend before my grandfather comes to live with my family so I will be helping to get things ready for his arrival.  In this new house, the basement is a three-bedroom apartment all on its own with a full kitchen, one and a half baths, and a washer and dryer.  Until now I've had it all to myself but I am rather looking forward to having Grampie across the "hall".

Anyway, here are some cool things I've found around the web this week:

+ Amazon is amazing all on its own but if you need help picking out a gift for your favorite hipster/design minimalist, Canopy is here to streamline that process.  If Amazon is a giant warehouse, Canopy aims to be the catalog of the coolest stuff in the store.  They have curated the best that Amazon has to offer and you can add things to your Amazon cart right from the Canopy website.  The "under $20" tab is already going to be a problem for me, I can tell. (via Refinery29)

+ One of my favorite photographers, Gray Malin, is doing this incredibly cool project featuring rainbow-colored sheep in the Australian bush.  He explained the inspiration for and meaning behind the photos over on his blog. The sneak peaks posted to Instagram are amazing and I can't wait to see the finished product.

+ In case you have an extra color ink cartridge, here is some really pretty printable gift wrap. Or you could just do like me and use the image as phone wallpaper. (via Oh Happy Day)

+Incredible chalkboard art by two random students at Columbus College of Art and Design (via Laura)

+ My bathroom is getting remodeled this summer and I can't get over these blue large scale floral wallpapered bathrooms. And that copper sink? Yes please.

+ Summer is upon us and I can't wait for all that fresh produce. As soon as I get some ripe tomatoes, I'm going to make this panzanella. (via Anthology Magazine)

+ I shared this on Facebook last week but I've got it on repeat:  check out this little girl doing an amazing cover of one of my favorite songs. I can't believe she's only seven!

Wherever you are, have a good one!

Monday, May 12, 2014

Chocolate Madeleines

One cold snowy day in March, I was nosing around the kitchen when I found a Madeleine pan I picked up a few months ago.  I decided it was time to see if these delicious French treats were really as easy to make as the recipes claim.  After a little bit of research I went with this recipe and was very pleased with the results. (That link is to a Google Doc, which is easily read and printed so you're welcome.)

Well, file this under "Fancy yet almost Foolproof Desserts", which is rather narrow category as any baker will tell you.  But what exactly are Madeleines? They are small, spongey, shell-shaped tea cakes that come in every flavor and are often best enjoyed at afternoon tea with Marie Antoinette.  But just in case you don't live in pre-Revolutionary War France, they also make for a lovely after-dinner treat when paired with coffee.  You know, when you want something sweet and decadent without the commitment of a four-layer chocolate torte.  

Traditionally, Madeleines are a vanilla flavor with a hint of citrus from orange or lemon extract but if you know me at all you know it's chocolate or get out of my kitchen.  To be fair, traditional Madeleines are incredibly delicious, especially if they are drizzled in a light vanilla glaze. Here is a very detailed and beautifully photographed tutorial from The Kitchn on making classic Madeleines, if chocolate is not your fancy.

There are three things to remember for achieving that slightly crispy outside and soft, spongey inside texture that is unique to Madeleines:

1) Grease the pan very well, whether it be with butter and flour or cooking spray. A Madeleine stuck in the pan doesn't do anyone any good.

2) Do not under or over fill the molds. As you can see with my first batch, the cakes were a little small and so a bit dried out.

 A generous tablespoon of batter does the trick. This was my second batch.

3) Do not overbake.  The chocolate Madeleines are a little harder to judge by sight, as they do not change to the beautiful golden brown of the classic ones.  Everyone's ovens vary, but I found right about nine minutes to be the sweet spot. The cakes were soft, moist, and sprang back when I touched them.

You can get extra fancy and dust them in powdered sugar or melted white chocolate but I found they tasted lovely as is. The only downside is that these little cakes only last for a day or two, but they are so yummy that it's not usually a problem.

Well, what do you think? Do you see yourself making these? Any variations out there that I should try? Most importantly, will you travel to Versailles with me? I have a sudden urge to take tea in the palace garden...

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Baby Love

I know it's been ages since a proper update but many new things have happened on the other side of this blog (aka the real world) which have taken my time and attention. One of them is nine months old and is nicknamed Baby A or Buggy.  While searching for a new full-time job, it has been my great pleasure to spend time with this little guy over the last couple of months.  He has single-handedly made me fall in love with tiny humans all over again.  I'm not one to rave over other people's children but this dude has my heart in his little fist.

Anyone can tell by the curly blonde mop, blueberry eyes, and dimply grin that he is a charmer but it goes beyond that. He is SO GOOD, literally the happiest baby I have ever met. He loves everything that goes on, even what I would assume to be the tiresome parts of being a baby:
"Time for a diaper change? Everybody clap your hands! Nap time? No probalo, sister, I was feeling sleepy anyway. Mashed chickpeas and carrots on the menu? I will fist pump in excitement and make happy grunting noises."

Everything makes him laugh. Everything must be taste-tested: fingers, toys, furniture, Lola's ear (she's a dog). He doesn't even get mad when I take the non-edibles away from him. He just gives me a drooly grin and crawls away to find something new.

The past few months have been frustrating with so much in my personal life up in the air.  The days I get to hang out with Buggy are my favorites, though. He is pure sunshine.  Every day is a new life discovery and it's incredibly refreshing to be reminded about the simple pleasures that come from just being alive.

Most of us don't remember what it feels like to be unable to move without being picked up and carried.  The day he finally figured out how to crawl was the happiest day of his life. If he could talk, he would have been shouting with glee. "I CAN GO LITERALLY ANYWHERE I WANT. THE WORLD IS MY OYSTER AND NOTHING CAN STOP ME. Except this baby gate...but whatever, I'm not even mad! I'M JUST GOING TO GO SOMEWHERE ELSE."  

He also learned how to wave recently and does it with both hands at every opportunity.  He waves at his parents, the dogs, even the ceiling fan when I turn it on.  When I grin and wave back, he chuckles like I just learned the secret code he invented. 

While I worry and wonder about jobs and relationships and big life things, Baby A is over there going, "I JUST FIGURED OUT HOW TO OPEN AND SHUT A DRAWER, WERE YOU AWARE OF THAT? I THINK I MIGHT BE A WIZARD."

 "Hey remember that time ten minutes ago when I sneezed prunes all over myself and you? THAT WAS HILARIOUS, I HAD NO IDEA FOOD ALSO COULD COME OUT OF MY MOUTH AS WELL AS GO IN."


He ends every day completely exhausted, and I go home in a great mood.  I seriously think the key to sleeping a solid ten hours every night is being amazed at everything that happens to you in a day. And mentally shouting your reaction.

Thank you so much for being you, Baby A. I've loved our time together. You remind me that there is something good in everything that happens to us. Life is exciting and weird and just like you, I can't wait to see what happens next.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Day in the Life: April 2014

A Day in the Life: A Linkup by Break the Sky

Hello, friends. This post is fourth in the series hosted by Manda at Break the Sky, showcasing a day in a blogger's life. Yes I am obscenely late in posting it but here it is anyway.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

// 6:52 a.m.

In which I awake with a start, having turned off both alarms in my sleep, and rush out of bed because I NEED TO LEAVE FOR WORK IN EXACTLY 18 MINUTES. It's my second day of working a temp job at the annual super-ultra-mega enormous outlet sale of a popular women's handbags and luggage brand that rhymes with Shmera Shmradley, maybe you've heard of them? They were founded and are still headquartered (is that a word?) in my hometown and they only do this massive sale once a year. They rent out the biggest arena in town and for a whole week, tens of thousands (not exaggerating) of women flock to the city to buy last year's extra stock/slightly imperfect product at a deep discount. With my employment situation being in the "take whatever I can get" category, I applied to work the sale.

I get ready in record time and microwave some oatmeal while I hop around the kitchen trying to shove my swollen feet into some shoes. While pulling out of the neighborhood, I stop to admire the peach and blue morning sky.

// 7:25 a.m.

In which I arrive at the Coliseum and take a picture of where I parked my car for reference when I leave.  I am the worst at remembering where I parked, especially in an enormous lot.

See that's funny because Magellan was like, "exsqueeze me while I circumnavigate the globe in a ship without a GPS" and I'm all, "Siri, can you direct me to my mailbox?"
// 7:30 a.m.

In which I make the long trek around the perimeter of the arena, past the box cutting corner where I worked yesterday to the sorting area. The walls are lined with stacks of product, waiting to be unboxed and put out on the floor.

// 7:35 a.m.

In which I meet my team leader Ya Min, a lovely Burmese woman who has worked the sale for eight straight years.  She tells me her name means "King of Wednesday afternoon" because that's how Burmese people roll when it comes to names.  I am immediately in awe of her. She explains that it's our job to collect and sort through all the merchandise that has been picked up off the tables and later discarded in some other place.  Then we are to take it in shopping carts back out to the floor to be displayed once more.  It is tiring and rather futile but it makes the time pass quickly.
Before the doors open and everything is organized for the last time ever.

// 10:45 a.m.

In which there is a break in between customers and we are allowed to take 15 minutes to do our own shopping if we so choose.  I've always been rather ambivalent towards VB and their penchant for quilted paisley, but I can't deny how handy their duffle bags are for weekend trips.  With the discount of the sale and the 15% employee discount, I decide it is finally worth my money to purchase one. I found a bright and punchy spring pattern and grabbed a matching cell phone wristlet because I got caught up in the moment, don't judge me.

// 11:00 a.m.

In which my fellow sorters and I are herded to the break room for lunch.  Each meal is catered by a different restaurant, a rather nice perk to working here, but I never know in advance what it will be.  Today it is grinders and pizza from Mancino's, which is extremely unfortunate as everything is drenched in melted cheese, a food that I can no longer digest. I grab a veggie sandwich, hoping to salvage some of it from the cheese but to no avail. I mournfully eat a bag of potato chips and stare longingly at the smart lady who brought what appears to be a full Sunday roast, complete with mashed potatoes.

// 11:30 a.m.

In which we return to work and the never-ending process of sorting.

Waiting for a giant cart to be unloaded. Empty spots at the tables means roast dinner lady and her friends are late, probably laughing with abandon as they eat mashed potatoes.

// 1:30 p.m.

In which another unexpected 15-minute break is granted to us.  Cranky and starving, I head outside to sit in the grass and eat the emergency fruit snacks I had in my pocket. I kick my shoes off and my feet actually emit red cartoon lines of pain, the below photo is real and true and not digitally altered.

Ok yes I did draw those in afterwards but if my feet could talk they would have been screaming.

// 3:00 p.m.

In which I peek around the black curtain that separates the worker bees from the sales floor and assess the crowd before making my last run to deliver merchandise.  As soon as I walk through the curtain, I am surrounded by people pawing through my cart and asking me endless questions about this pattern, that handbag, and so on.  It takes a half hour to walk the couple hundred feet to the table and back.  I am sweating profusely from the exertion of moving the cart and the heat of so many bodies in the room.  Even though I know my day is almost over, I can't quell the rising anxiety in my chest from feeling trapped in this giant room with all these people, just pushing and pushing with no regard to personal space.  I focus on my breathing until I can reach the edge of the room and get behind the black curtain. When I do, I am glad I was able to avoid a full blown panic attack but know I don't have the patience or the mental energy to fend off another one.

(This photo actually taken shortly after the doors opened in the morning. Quadruple the amount of people for a closer approximation of how tightly packed it was.)

// 4:00 p.m.

In which I return home and throw my shoes with no small amount of force into the closet. Wearing my TOMS was the worst decision I made all day.  My feet swell up and I almost cry they hurt so bad. Yes, I am fully aware of how much of a spoiled brat I sound like but the struggle was real, y'all.

// 5:00 p.m.

In which I drag myself into the shower and then spend the rest of the evening lying on my bed eating way too many Trader Joe's gourmet jelly beans and falling into a Wikipedia wormhole. Did you know that there is a park in Florida where mermaids do daily underwater performances? Me neither, but you'd best believe if I ever make it to Tampa to visit Lindsey, I will be checking it out.

// 9:00 p.m.

In which I give in to the fatigue and fall fast asleep. I know tomorrow will be more of the same insanity but cartoon dollar signs in my dreams will motivate me to get up and do it all over again.


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