Sunday, August 30, 2009

Some thoughts before I hit the road.

It's with not a little trepidation that I leave for my sister's home in Utah tonight. It was a spur-of-the-moment decision, fueled by the facts that one, I miss her and two, I'm bored. I've had (have) too many days off to not do something and what better than to pay my favorite older sister a visit?

And three, when the urge to get in the car and drive hits, it's hard to ignore. Much like resisting the urge to reread Twilight for the eight millionth time. But, somehow, I'm doing it. Day by ever-lasting day. (I curse you, Stephenie Meyer.) (No, I take that back. I love you, Stephenie Meyer. Now, please, for the love of all that's holy and sweet, finish Midnight Sun. I'm begging you.)

And the trepidation? Well, that stems from the fact that the last time I spur-of-the-moment decided to visit my sister? Back in February? The. Shit. Hit. The. Fan.


But I'm choosing not to think about that. Because, I mean, what are the chances, right? Moving on...

I love to drive. Well, I love to drive if I'm alone. If I'm with someone, then I love for them to drive while I sleep. Snacks Sweets are a must. Hot Tamales, Junior Mints, Laffy Taffy, Sugar Babies, and/or Swedish Fish. Sometimes Pop Tarts or trail mix. Sometimes ice cream. I'm not even kidding. Another must: a beverage. And, despite the diabetes-inducing plethora of assorted candy, I prefer water. Very, very rarely will I choose diet root beer. I turn my music up loud and sing along like I'm auditioning for American Idol and simultaneously trying to blow out my eardrums. And Carrie Underwood? EAT YOUR EFFIN' HEART OUT.

(But not really, 'cause, sadly, I got nothing on Carrie Underwood. Nothing even close.)

These are the things I consider mandatory for a less-than-twenty-four-hour visit with my sister and her brood:

Tooth brush and toothpaste. Contact solution and an extra pair of contacts. (Yes, I'm blind.) (Back in February, I lost a contact in my sleep and had to wear my glasses during the drive home. Glasses whose prescription haven't been updated in five years and are missing an earpiece. Going through the agricultural inspection was awesome.) Hair brush. Hair spray. Extra hair bands (because I will go a little crazy if I can't pull my hair back into a pony tail). Deodorant. Razor. Tweezers and trimming scissors (because some habits die hard). Shampoo and conditioner. A book. And, naturally, my camera, cell phone, iPod, laptop, and Nintendo DS. And enough clothes to last me through, well, something really long. I'm an over-packer. I've stopped fighting it.

I'll see you peeps on Tuesday. (The day I turn twenty-five.) (Again.)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Because I have the time for random thoughts like these… now that I’m nolonger reading Twilight.

Months and months ago (maybe years by this point) I was browsing a book store. It was a Barnes & Noble. I was with my sister. It may have been winter.

I had nearly given up my search for something entertaining and walked out empty handed when this cover caught my eye:

I mean, really... "chow's on?" How can you not laugh? I couldn't resist picking it up. I'm a sucker for clever cover art. And despite my then complete lack of interest in all things vampires, I was intrigued. So, I bought it. And for the next few weeks, I worked my way through the eight books that made up the series.

(Sadly, somewhere along the way, the cover art went from cute and clever to... to... this:

... Ugh.)

Still... they were funny and romantic and cleverly written. Up until that point, my image of vampires consisted of what I'd learned from watching Interview with the Vampire, which was really very good, but vampires? Ew. Thanks, but no thanks. They just never did it for me.

But I loved the Argeneau series. I more than appreciated the way the author explained Vampires and how they came to be. It was smart and fun. And not creepy.

Now, I wonder. Had that series of books not softened my feelings towards vampires, would I have still read Twilight? And if I'd never read Twilight, would I have been at all intrigued by the HBO series True Blood?

No, I've never seen True Blood. The Husband and I only order HBO for three months during the Summer to catch Entourage, so I only saw the previews and heard the rave reviews after it had started it's second season. But it's based off a series of books by Charlaine Harris. So, I have in my possession book one. Dead Until Dark. And the cover art?

Would be kinda hot if not for the creepy tongue.

Although, let's face it. None of these are quite as bad as...

So, in conclusion, Lynsay Sands is completely responsible for my downfall.

And some cover art really sucks.

And vampires... some vampires... aren't so bad.

The end.

A week-before-my-birthday present.

Me (eying him suspiciously): Just in case you're getting any ideas... NO BIRTHDAY PRESENTS.

Him: Blah blah blah.

Me: I'm not kidding, Husband. We agreed.

Him: Suck it up. I already got you something.

Me: What?! WHEN?!

Him: A few weeks ago. I got it just because, but then figured it might as well be a birthday present.

Me: If you give me a present for no reason, I'm going to think you're incredibly sweet. If you give it to me on my birthday, I'm going to be PISSED.

One hundred dollars hugs high-fives to the first person to guess the gift... based on the card and the facts that my husband is an obsessed sports fan and I love cute guys.

(And no, it's not my birthday. Yet. You'll know when you hear me wailing from a cold, dark corner. Bring chocolate.)

Monday, August 24, 2009

I don't do early. But I wish I did.

I love really early mornings and the utter peace and quiet of them. I love feeling as if I’m the only person in the world awake at that moment. Almost as if I’m the only person in the world, period. Just me and my lazy cats.

I wish I could wake up early enough each day to enjoy at least one hour of darkness before the sun starts to lighten the day. I’d sit by the window with a cup of coffee close by... and not because I need it, but because it’s the cool adult thing to do. (And if I couldn’t be cool in my teens, then I’d at least like to be cool as I start to eye thirty angrily from across the room.)

I'd flip on the computer and read or write or spend a happy hour searching for anything Twilight-related as the sky turned from black to dark blue, from dark blue to gray as dawn spread across the overcast sky.

Much later, I'd nap. Sometime during the middle of the day, during the warmest hours of the day. I'd fall asleep on the sofa with the sun shining through the windows while everyone else is at work.

That would be nice.

But the sad truth is that I wasn’t scheduled to work until ten o'clock this morning, I set my alarm for 8:30 and I still hit the snooze when the damn thing jolted me awake.

Mornings and me... we just don't get along.

(Luke. Luke knows how to nap.)

Friday, August 21, 2009

Something else to watch over and over and over again.

Just couldn't resist. But then... we knew that, right?

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The one that’ll make me laugh and roll my eyes in a few years. (I hope.)

I sat down tonight to finally get caught up on my reading. And by "reading," I, of course, mean my favorite blogs. Blogs that have gone sadly neglected in my Reader. My poor Reader. It's bulging at the seams.

Except, after staring at my computer screen for several minutes, sidetracked, I realized that there was a different type of reading that was keeping me preoccupied.

So, this post, despite the response I'm certain to get, has to be written. I need to remember this, need to remember these feelings. And I have no idea where any of my partially-used-and-forgotten diaries are. (Like I'd use them if I did.)

Here goes (she said with a sigh).

Last week, a coworker started reading Twilight. (I can hear you groaning, don't think I can't.) I was, naturally, excited for her. I'm clearly an obsessed fan and wish the whole world would read and fall in love with the stories and characters as I have.

When she asked me to reread along with her, I shrugged and thought why the hell not? It didn't matter that I was already in the middle of a novel that I was finding more and more interesting. I could finish it later. And it didn't matter that I was sleep deprived and still adjusting to a new schedule. Who needs sleep? It was one book, one I've read before. It would be easy. And, since I already knew the story, I could quickly skim parts here and there. I'd just refresh my memory.

She asked on Thursday. On Saturday, I was still debating reading it at all. As I laid down to nap (God, I needed a nap), I glanced over at the books sitting on my dresser, just a few feet away. And suddenly the thought of browsing through Twilight was irresistible. I’d spend a few minutes relaxing with a few of my favorite chapters.

It didn’t go quite as planned.

I was completely sucked in. Just as much as, if not more than, the first time. I couldn’t put it down. I reread the entire book, page by page, over the next two days. I brought it to work to read on my lunch breaks. I stayed up late when I should have been sleeping because JUST A FEW MORE PAGES.

And when it ended, I immediately began rereading New Moon. This one I knew I would get through quickly. Surely I wouldn’t be interested in reading every little detail of the one book in the entire series that was missing it's greatest character.

And page by heart-wrenching page, I read. I was utterly captivated by the turmoil and the heartache, the love and romance.

I finished New Moon earlier today, but I forced myself to come up for air before I'd allow myself to begin Eclipse. I spent time with my sister. We made brownies. I hugged and kissed my husband when he arrived home from work.

And, throughout it all, my thoughts were elsewhere. I can't sufficiently explain the emotional pull these books have on me. All I can say is it's there. The thought of the series ending causes an ache in my chest. And I've already read it! It's completely irrational, but true nonetheless.

What's ironic (at least to me) is that I'd be the first person to say that the writing isn't great. The characters? Flawed. The storyline? Completely unrealistic. And don't get me started on that abomination they call a movie.

I'm IN LOVE with it all. The characters, the love story... I've been ruined for life. I would never have thought that it could get better, but I've been surprised to find that I'm even more involved the second time around. Maybe because I know what to expect and I'm able to focus more on the emotion than on trying to follow the storyline. Or maybe I'm just nuts. Maybe someone should come by and take these books away from me before my husband has me committed.

He should definitely have me committed.

As someone who loves to read, who loves to be pulled into a great story with characters that are wonderful and lovable, it's fantastic. I couldn't ask for more. However, there's a part of me that wonders if getting quite so emotionally attached to fictional characters (Vampires?? Seriously?!) is healthy.

Maybe I would have been less affected if it had ended with just one book. But would I have enjoyed Twilight on it's own? There's a Costco sticker still stuck to the top right corner of my copy of Twilight that provides the price and category of the book. "Juvenile," it says. And it is. It's clearly written for a younger crowd and there are parts where I frown and wish I could have had a hand in editing. It doesn't prevent me from becoming completely engrossed in this seemingly ill-fated love story.

And then, in New Moon, the one I assumed I'd like the least, my emotions are taken for a ride that leaves me staggering. It's heartbreaking.

As I contemplate reading the next and last two books of the series (again, for a second time), I’m both excited and weary. I want to dive head first back into the lives and relationship of these two characters I love and yet, at the same time, I’m not sure if my emotions can handle it.

I hesitate to say these books have changed my life… mostly because I know you’re all, at any moment, going to start backing slowly away, never to be heard from again... but also because there’s no tangible evidence of such a statement. These books haven’t put me on a different path, they haven’t changed my dreams or goals, they haven’t changed any behaviors. It’s just a feeling I have. A feeling that I’ll never be quite the same person again.

Although, I don't think I was ever quite the same person after I read my first romance novel when I was fourteen-years-old after stealing Johanna Lindsey's The Magic of You from my older sister.

(On a side note, may I just add that I've never been so tempted to close comments as I was while writing this post. So, just this one time... if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

The job. An update.

I used to work in an office alone. Well, technically, I shared the office with two other people, but they were rarely there.

Now I work surrounded by people in an open square-shaped room like this:

Except the walls aren't all curvy. Although that would be totally awesome.

There are "stations" lining the walls, like this:

And by "stations," I mean cubicles. Except not quite so Office Space. (Please imagine that there are desks and chairs and computers and phones at each "station." It took me so long to draw those tiny arrows, there was no way I was going to attempt the rest.) (I am artistically retarded.)

I sit at "station" 9. It's right by the door. So, naturally, I'm the first person people see when they come looking for help. And by "looking for help" I mean looking for someone to irritate with stupid questions. And, yes, there are such things. Trust me.

Actually, I have to be honest. It's been a surprise to find that working around people helps keep my energy up.

This used to be me:

Now, at least I'm sitting up.

But... my desk is nowhere near that big. Certainly not big enough for me to sprawl across. Pity.

Actually these are horrible drawings. If I was smart, I'd hit "cancel" on this post immediately.

Except that Blogger has no cancel button. Gotcha!

(I'm sorry. But this is what six a.m. shifts do to me.)

It's been a long time since I felt overwhelmingly busy. And before you tell me it only seems that way because I'm still learning, let me correct you. I've done this job before. At least, most of it.

They recently took two positions and combined them into one. So while I'm learning some new things, most of it is familiar. So familiar that I was scheduled by myself on Sunday. I knew going in that the checklist was too much for one person. And I was right. That was a hellish day. I haven't left work on time once since I started. (To clarify, I work in a department of thirty, but there are three of us that do a specific job within said department.)

I have very conflicting feelings regarding this new job.

I enjoy the work and I'm realizing just how much I disliked what I did before.

But I hate being so busy that I can't successfully finish said work without putting in a fourteen-hour day.

I miss the freedom of being able to come and go as I please, of being able to check my e-mail, catch up on my favorite blogs...

But when I leave work now, despite being frustrated over leaving things undone, I feel like I've actually accomplished something.

I used to be a supervisor and swore I'd never do it again, but in this current semi-leadership role, I find myself enjoying it.

And my set schedule, period. Losing that was a tough pill to swallow.

God, my handwriting on this thing really sucks.

Now, I'd stay and chat except it's nine p.m. and I HAVE TO GO TO BED.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The one where I realize just how nauseatingly responsible my husband is.

I've been operating under the impression that my husband is an alcoholic. And since there's a gigantic negative association with the word "alcoholic," I feel the need to first explain just how responsible my husband is.

He wakes up every day at seven a.m. Weekends, too. It's disgusting. He is supposed to be at work by eight, but arrives early every morning. (I make up for this by being five minutes late.) He makes sure all of our bills are paid on time and, even though he keeps meticulous track of our finances, if asked he can recite all of the figures from memory.

He arrives home from work at six-fifteen each evening. He changes out of his suit, retrieves the mail, feeds the cats (because I always forget), and takes out the trash. He tidies up the apartment if I've been lazy, then finally sits down in front of the television, fires up his laptop, and watches sports while I fix something to eat.

And he has a couple of beers. (He's a Coors Light guy. Don't fight it.)

He doesn't leave the house, would never drink and drive. And while he might become, if anything, nicer, there is zero change in his personality. He doesn't gamble, doesn't make any impulsive decisions. Just sits and watches sports and drinks beer. And, at ten o'clock sharp, he forces me to bed where we watch reruns of Seinfeld. (That's right. Seinfeld. Don't fight it.)

And the next day, he does it all over again.

I only became aware of the pattern three years ago. That was the first time we both shared the same schedule. I worried. My parents were/are alcoholics and it certainly wasn't an easy environment to grow up in. I honestly didn't know if I had the strength to stay in a relationship that presented the same problem.

But now I have reason to believe I may have been wrong all this time. The Husband had a root canal several weeks ago. The antibiotics prescribed to fight infection caused other health issues for which he was put on more antibiotics last Monday. Antibiotics that the doctor strictly informed him he could mix with alcohol.

No alcohol for ten. whole. days.

I admit it. I was damn curious to see how he'd do. I believed it would be very telling of just how dependent he may have become. And you know something?

Nothing. No change in personality or behavior or disposition. No shaking or twitching or anything even remotely close to what I learned from E.R. He is the exact same man that's been irritating me for the last eight years.

Just without a Coors Light nearby.

(In writing this post, I did some reading. Maybe if I had looked there first, I would have spent a lot less time worrying.)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

What a string of six o'clock shifts looks like.

Day One: Wake up fairly alert and scurry to shut off alarm before it wakes The Husband. Tip-toe silently through a dark bedroom gathering clothes and other things I might need. Gently open and close the bedroom door. Spend five minutes posing in front of the bathroom mirror. Brush teeth, wash face, moisturize, pluck two stray eyebrow hairs. Brush hair and lightly spritz myself with Escada's Sunset Heat. Get dressed, grab lunch and my purse. Arrive to work on time and cheerfully greet coworkers. (Okay, "cheerfully" might be a stretch, but I'm sure I at least smiled.) Contemplate a nap in the afternoon, then decide I'd rather bake instead.

Day Three: Wake up feeling as if ten-pound weights are strapped to my body. Snooze the alarm three times. Sit on the edge of the bed for a few minutes rubbing my face as if that'll somehow rub away the fact that it's so early not even Starbucks is open and the only people awake are East Coast bloggers. Haphazardly grope around in the dark for things I might need. Completely ignore The Husband when he gets up to use the facilities after having been woken up from my opening and closing of closet doors and dresser drawers. Arrive to work ten minutes late. Grunt at coworkers and avoid eye contact. Take hour-long nap after arriving home.

Day Five*: Wake up feeling as if I took up boxing lessons the night before. Don't bother snoozing the alarm because WHAT'S THE EFFING POINT!? Turn on all lights and the television. If I'm going to be miserable, so is THAT MAN. Slam the bedroom door. Slam the bathroom door. Splash cold water on my face and skip the shower. Contemplate wearing a hat to work and backhanding anyone who tries to tell me it isn't "in the handbook." Kick the cat as I walk out the door. Arrive to work on time. Eat a candy bar for breakfast because, as far as I'm concerned, calories don't count at UNNATURAL O'CLOCK. Fall asleep sitting at my desk. Receive written warning. Use string of colorful words to tell my boss what I think about it, him, and the whole freaking job. Get escorted from the premises. Knock over a bank on the way home because, obviously, I'm now strapped for funds. Fall asleep in the back of police car.

*Day Five is tomorrow and could, possibly, be an exaggeration, but if you don't hear from me again relatively soon, please send bail money.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Frosted Peanut Butter Cupcakes

I made these cupcakes weeks ago, but then I got all tangled up and crazy about muffins and I forgot about them. And they really don't deserve to be forgotten.

They remind me of carrot cake. Except that they're made with peanut butter. And no carrots at all. Maybe it was just the frosting that reminded me of carrot cake. Maybe carrot cake is way freaking off and you should just forget I ever made the comparison. Thank you.

I very much enjoyed these cupcakes. And I very much enjoyed the frosting. I wanted to use it to frost more than just cupcakes. I'm a tad obsessed, in case you couldn't tell. But is there anything better than cream cheese frosting? I think not. Well, maybe homemade whipped cream.

So, make these cupcakes and forget I ever decided to write this at nearly ten o'clock at night after having been up since five a.m. My "box of chocolates" schedule has started. And it makes me want to cry a little. No, a lot.

Now, I have to go to bed. I have a hot, messy date with 5 a.m. again tomorrow morning, but first? I'm going to have a bowl of fat-free chocolate ice cream and watch a Top Model rerun. And I don't care what you think. (Yes, I do.)

Oh, and whatever you do, do NOT over-bake these cupcakes! I mean, you don't want to over-bake anything, but... you know. And, by "you know" I mean I have absolutely no idea how to finish that sentence.

I think, after eighteen million muffin tries, I'm finally learning how to take things out of the oven when they're done. (Where this fear of under-baking came from, I'm not sure. But, sadly, this means I usually cook everything to brick-like consistency. Brick-like cupcakes? Not so good.)

Frosted Peanut Butter Cupcakes

4 tablespoons butter, softened
1 1/8 cups light brown sugar
1/3 cup crunchy peanut butter
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/3 cup milk

1 cup cream cheese
2 tablespoons butter, softened
2 cups confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 12-cup muffin pan with paper liners.

Put the butter, sugar, and peanut butter in a bowl and beat together for 1-2 minutes, or until well mixed. Gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla. Sift in the flour and baking powder and then, using a metal spoon, fold them into the mixture, alternating with the milk. Spoon the batter into the paper liners.

Bake the cupcakes in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, or until well risen and golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool.

To make the frosting, put the cream cheese and butter in a large bowl and using an electric hand whisk, beat together until smooth. Sift the confectioners' sugar into the mixture, then beat together until well mixed.

When the cupcakes are cold, spread the frosting on top of each cupcake, swirling it with a round-bladed knife. Store the cupcakes in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

(You can go here for a printer-friendly version of the recipe.)

Monday, August 10, 2009

The pictures I wish I would have taken in Phoenix.

1. The huge, pale gold moon that hung low over the desert mountains. My mean husband wouldn't let me stop for pictures.

2. The amazing sushi I had on Friday night after a normally five-hour drive took seven thanks to that wonderful Los Angeles traffic.

3. The creatures that flew frantically above us as we enjoyed a cocktail after dinner. Birds or bats, I'm still not sure.

4. The lazy river. Which totally can't be beat when it's over 100 degrees IN THE SHADE.

5. The girl who lay face-down on her inner-tube as she floated through the lazy river. With pimples on her ass. Come on, now. Either cover it up or don't lay face-down as if your pimples have a FEAR OF DROWNING.

6. Me. After falling asleep in my inner-tube. In the middle of the lazy river. In the middle of tons of people. What can I say? Too much sun and too many adult beverages.

7. Bret Michaels. Who was rumored to be lounging at the pool. If he was, we couldn't find him.

8. Our bathroom after I tried to take a bath... and wound up flooding the room.

9. The two managers and two engineers who came up to our room when the guests below us complained of a sudden leak... and their faces when I answered the door wrapped in a towel.

10. The Husband and I as we woke up hungry, achy, and sunburned at midnight after a long afternoon nap. (This would have really sucked if TBS hadn't played The Out-of-Towners and HouseSitter back to back. Instead, it was awesome. I totally confirmed my belief that Steve Martin is one of the funniest actors ever.)

11. The two of us on Sunday morning as we stumbled sleepily from our room to valet and I asked The Husband why it felt as if we'd been there for A MONTH.

The pictures I did take?




Because too much vodka.

I have no words to explain these further, except I think this is when we went in search of Bret Michaels. Apparently, the ducks were the next best thing.

Which means that, to me, Bret ranks right up there with ducks. No offense, Bret. You're cute and all, but I probably wouldn't touch you with my bare hands. Because ew.

I really like how I tried to get all creative with this one. It's too bad the angle doesn't make up for the fact that I completely forgot how to operate basic camera settings.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

The desert.

Besides being incredibly hot, Phoenix was beautiful.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Effing SUCCESS. Well, almost.

Now these... these are muffins.

Last night, The Husband came home to find me standing in the kitchen, my hands braced on the counter, my head bowed as if in prayer. He kissed me hello, but could sense something was wrong. I looked him square in the eye, took a deep breath, and said, “Honey, here goes round three.”

He frowned briefly, not understanding. Then realization dawned and he began to back away nervously. His left eye started to twitch. “Muffins? AGAIN!?” he exclaimed as sweat beaded on his brow.

I nodded helplessly. “You might not want to be here for this.”

And then I fucking went to battle. These bastards muffins never stood a chance.

Let me back track a little so we’re all on the same page.

Muffin attempt #1: Doughnut Muffins. Made from a cookbook that I know nothing about except that it was purchased at Costco and then left behind by a guest in the hotel. Result: although they were tasty, the texture was all wrong and they were much too pointy.

Muffin attempt #2: AB’s muffin recipe from a Good Eats episode. Result: complete baking fail. They were greasy, sunken in. Awful. Mostly likely baker’s error. (Let's be honest.)

Because my faith in him is as strong as my love for chocolate, I used another Alton recipe for the third batch. This one out of his book. Which was very similar to the other with some minor alterations.

As soon as my timer went off and I opened the oven door, I could see a huge improvement. They weren't sunken in, nor were they pointy. They were perfect. I grabbed the pan and dashed into the den where The Husband sat worriedly awaiting the news.

“Honey! Look! Muffins!” And then I promptly did a jig.

My only complaint is that they were a bit dry due to overcooking. Totally my fault. The directions said the muffin cups should be full. I used a disher that clearly wasn't large enough and actually had some batter left over. Rather than try to distribute it evenly, I just popped ‘em in the oven and set the timer for 15 minutes. A couple minutes less and they probably would have been perfect.

Alton’s Old School Muffins

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 egg + 1 egg yolk
1 cup plain yogurt
Bit and pieces (nuts, fruit, chips, etc.)

Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt). Whisk together the wet ingredients (sugar, oil, eggs, yogurt). Add the wet to the dry and mix until just combined. Do not over mix. Do not mix until smooth. Mix for a long ten count and another three for the bits and pieces. Spoon batter into prepared muffin tin (I use Baker’s Joy) and bake for 18-20 minutes at 375 degrees.

Even the texture is as it should be. (Insert grinning-like-a-fool here.)

(Printer-friendly version.)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Doughnut Muffins.

Alternate title: And the mystery continues.

07 29 2009 - Justice and muffins 013 - e

These are the muffins I made before my kitchen imploded. And, although they're a bit pointy (better than the alternative, right?) and my boyfriend could point out all the reasons these wouldn't be considered real muffins, they sure tasted good.

I love muffins. Seriously. Love. It was back in '07, on our road trip through New England, that I had my very first taste of Dunkin' Donuts. Holy Mother of Sweet Pastries. Their coffee was great. Their muffins were AMAZING.

It was early morning on one of the two days we spent in Boston. We had plans to walk the Freedom Trail (which they say is only 2.5 miles, but really it's, like, 11 if you get lost somewhere around the U.S.S. Constitution like we did), but since we were totally sleep deprived still on west coast time, I told The Husband I would not leave the room without the guarantee of coffee.

So, before starting out for the day, we stopped at Dunkin' Donuts. Oh, glorious muffins. I was afraid we wouldn't find ourselves near another DD and loaded up. The Husband was stuck carrying around a box of muffins for the rest of the day.

But, turns out, they were everywhere. Much like Starbucks. And I needn't have worried that I wouldn't get my muffin fix wherever we found ourselves.

I would totally move to Boston if I didn't think I'd freeze to death in my own home during my first real winter.

Now, here's the mystery.

This is the first muffin recipe I used. J and I made these together. I wouldn't say we half-assed them, but we certainly didn't go to such extremes as I did with the others.

Last night, as I was typing up the recipe, I realized that I only used 3/4 of a TEASPOON of baking powder. The recipe calls for 3/4 of a TABLESPOON. Baking fail, right? Except these turned out TEN TIMES BETTER than when I followed every minute instruction to the letter.

What the hell gives?!

Doughnut Muffins

3/4 cups butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
3/4 tablespoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 cup milk

1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-cup muffin pan.

In a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Add the eggs, a little at a time, beating well between additions.

Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and nutmeg together. Add half to the creamed mixture with half of the milk. Gently fold the ingredients together before incorporating the remaining flour and milk. Spoon the mixture into the prepared muffin pan, filling each hole to about two-thirds full.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until the muffins are lightly brown and firm to the touch.

For the topping, mix the sugar and cinnamon together. While the muffins are still warm from the oven, brush lightly with melted butter and sprinkle over the cinnamon and sugar mixture. Eat warm or cold. (Totally awesome when warm, but then again, what isn't?)

(Printer-friendly version.)

Monday, August 3, 2009

Why I chose to stay employed.

These muffins. They're the perfect example of why I need to keep my job. At least for the time being.

A few days ago I made muffins out of a cookbook. They turned out great. Then, feeling all ambitious, I decided to try my boyfriend's recipe. I wanted to learn how to make A MUFFIN. The right way. I read the book, I watched the video. I went back into my kitchen feeling confident and prepared. I was going to make THE BEST MUFFIN IN THE HISTORY OF MUFFINS.

I followed every direction to a T. I used the right ingredients, weighed everything for complete accuracy, and popped 'em in the oven. And, damn it, I couldn't wait to see and taste them. I was going to show these puppies off. I was going to take them to The Husband and say, "See! I can do this! I can bake! I can tell that damn hotel to kiss my ass and I can start my own business! Are you with me?! LET'S DO IT!" Very Ty Pennington.

And when I pulled them out of the oven, the muffins weren't the only things completely deflated. I could have cried. What went wrong?

And that was the kicker. That one question. What went wrong? I honestly couldn't say. Because I DIDN'T KNOW. I don't have the knowledge to say, oh, it's because of this... or that... or whatever. Now let's try again!

I don't know how to bake. Sure, I can pull out a recipe and make it work. Most of the time I'm successful, but at this point it feels like pure luck.

These muffins are why I want to go back to school. Not for a degree. I'm not that ambitious. (At least, I don't think.) But for a few classes that will not only teach me the fundamentals of how to do these things I love, but provide the confidence to actually turn them into a career.

In the meantime, there's a lot to be said for a steady paycheck while you're figuring out how to make your dreams come true.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Newsletter: Month Twelve*

Dear blog,

Today you turned a year old. I was fully prepared to go to sleep after a long day, a longer week, a ridiculously long and grueling year, without having written a single thing to mark the occasion, but turns out? I'm more sentimental than I care to admit. So, even though my body is heavy with fatigue and the thought of crawling into bed with my current favorite book makes me want to weep, I'm here. Because I love you.

It's been an interesting 12 months to say the least. To be fair, the first six were fairly uneventful, but I've certainly made up for that during the last six. Remember in the beginning? When we'd write about our favorite childhood movies and past road trips? Ah, the good ol' days.

The good ol' days when we looked... like this:

I know. Scary.

We've learned a lot about CSS since then, haven't we? And thanks to a particularly rude WordPress forum contributor who introduced us to Firebug, we've spent quite the hours upon hours tweaking your template until our eyes cross. It seems my preferences are always changing and I begin to wonder if I'll ever be satisfied and leave well enough alone. You've been incredibly accommodating through it all. You depth of patience astounds me.

There's been baking along the way. Oh, my. The baking. It's feeds my soul and causes my metabolism to weep. I love it... despite the fact that those jeans? The ones I haven't worn for a year because they've been TOO BIG? Yeah. Suddenly, they fit perfectly.

And there have been pictures.

e - DSC_0071
Pumpkin Cookies. The fourth recipe I ever posted.

06 30 2009 - Two toned fudge 015 - e
Peanut butter two-toned fudge. The thirty-first recipe I've posted.

Thank God for chocolate and self-improvement.

And, of course, there's The Husband who has spent more than his fair share as the topic of controversy conversation 'round these parts.

I wrote this in February, just as the shit began to hit the fan...

"I haven't unpacked my camera or my laptop since I came home from Utah last Tuesday. I've been wondering, do you think there is a predetermined amount of stress for each individual that will completely alter their life's path? And I'm not trying to come off as some all important philosopher, but I just can't help but wonder if one life-altering event can come rattling through like an earthquake that, when the shaking finally stops, has completely tossed you onto a different course. Not that you even know what that course may be what with all the rubble blocking your view. I suppose the only thing to do is to start picking up the pieces, rebuild and figure it out as you go along. Stumbling through the aftershocks."

Little did I know that things would quickly become much worse and now, six months later, those aftershocks still like to come rippling through occasionally.

Weeks after that, in March, I wrote this...

"But love and five years of marriage is a powerful thing. Looking at him... as worried as I was, as hurt as I had been... I knew this was the man I was still in love with. This is the life I wanted. It's been three days since he came back home and, although I realize we have a lot of freaking hard work to do, it feels good. It feels right. The awkwardness of a couple weeks ago is gone. That stranger I was living with has moved on. And I'm happy."

And little did I know that that statement would remain true as well. I am happy. The future is still a scary, uneven, watch-your-step mystery, but I am happy and ready- braced- to face what comes.

Somewhere along the way, blog, we found our voice and, with it, friends. The best part of you has been the fantastic people I've met and built relationships with. They are the loveliest of people and had I known that a world of friendship, laughter, and support awaited me, I'd have started you sooner.

Looking forward to the next twelve months.


*Couldn't help myself.