Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Mission accomplished

Well, NaNo and I survived our month-long affair.



It's been a good month. I'll miss you, baby. We'll see where we stand when it starts to get cold and cloudy around this time next year. You know I always love good company with my tea and blankets.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

New Oven!

Hello, gorgeous.

We got this beautiful new stove delivered yesterday, and I couldn't be more excited. No more upping the temperature by five degrees and baking things for ten minutes longer. My baked goods will now bake up golden and delicious at the appropriate temperature for a normal amount of time.

I broke it in today with this honey beer bread, a recipe I found here and have been wanting to try out. I used a peach beer that we had in the garage (neither my mom nor I liked it very much to drink, but it made for a great bread). I think the subtle peach flavor came through very nicely, and I used a little extra honey which complemented the other flavors well, too.

The bread was so easy and used such simple recipes, and best of all, it was totally delicious. It baked up perfectly in about 52 minutes at 350 degrees. So happy with our new oven! Thanks, parents.

On an unrelated but exciting note, only 6,000 words to go as November and NaNo come to a close...

Friday, November 25, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

This post is a little late, but only because I was lucky enough to spend yesterday, Thanksgiving, with my wonderful family, eating way too much and sharing many laughs and time together. I have so much to give thanks for, but one of the things I was most thankful for this year was that I was able to come home and enjoy all of my great Thanksgiving traditions. I made pies with my grandma and cousin on Wednesday, spent time with old friends on Wednesday night, had a Thanksgiving dinner made only of side dishes (my favorite) and a night of board games with my family, and did a little Black Friday shopping with my mom this morning.

This year it was just a small group at my grandma's--just she, my grandpa, and my immediate family--so we made fewer pies: two pumpkin and one apple.

Our pumpkin pies turned out delicious, as usual. Much like how I cannot seem to find a recipe for chocolate chip cookies that I prefer over the Nestle Tollhouse recipe, I'll also swear by the classic Libby's pumpkin pie recipe. It's super easy, and it's always creamy and fluffy and delicious (completely covered in whipped cream, of course).

We also made this apple pie, with a beautiful lattice top. I love lattice tops--they're so simple to make, but they look gorgeous.

And with a batch of homemade dough (that was a little unmanageable, so we opted not to use for any of our pies), Mackenzie and I were left to our own devices. I made these little turkey tarts with a raspberry cream cheese filling.

Gobble, gobble (and boy, did we)! I hope everyone had as wonderful a Thanksgiving as I did.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Picture Books!

As promised, NaNoWriMo has taken over my life. But we've hit a really good rhythm together, and dare I say I think it just might stick--till November 30, that is.

This past weekend, I had a perfect night at home filled with take out Mexican food, time spent with my family (even if they did fall asleep on the couch), college football (and an Irish win at that!), and four new picture books to read and enjoy.

The first one I read was Maurice Sendak's Bumble-Ardy, which I've been eager to get my hands on for a while now and hadn't made it to the bookstore yet since the one nearest to me at home closed (RIP Borders). When I finally did, it delivered Sendak's usually odd and wonderful combination of words and illustrations.

In this book, however, I didn't find quite the usual charm that I have found in Sendak's other books. For me, some chemistry was missing slightly, or something was slightly off. Nevertheless, I enjoyed some of the illustrations and still found several of the playful rhymes and somewhat dark storyline unique and interesting.

These next two books turned out to be the clear winners for my taste of the four picture books I selected for the weekend. This one, Grandpa Green was so unique and heartfelt that I read it three times in a row. Told from a grandson's perspective, the story tells about the life of Grandpa Green and how he keeps a garden of topiaries that tell the story of his memories--with grandfather and grandson moving within a garden of topiaries throughout the book! So. Cute.


A Sick Day for Amos McGee was another immediate classic for me--not altogether surprising for a Caldecott medal winner. The whimsical tale of Amos McGee, an old man who works at a zoo reading to owls and racing tortoises and how he spends his sick day made me wish I lived in Amos's world. Or rather, that I was Amos.

This is a wonderful, classic story with beautiful illustrations that I would honestly love to have framed and hanging in my home.

This last one was mostly for fun, but I just love Marcel the Shell so much that I couldn't resist. This book was such a cute supplement to the beloved YouTube video about the tiny shell, and all of the new additions followed perfectly with the adorably funny and slightly weird tone of the shell.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Vanilla Bean Cake

Next time, I think I'll let my mom bake me a birthday cake instead of requesting to try out a "fancy" ingredient instead. Don't get me wrong, this vanilla bean paste made this cake taste phenomenal. The frosting too. It just wasn't my day for baking or decorating.

You, you simple, delicious, only slightly lopsided cake you. You are what I was aiming for all along.


Looks easy enough right? Hahaha. If you know me, you might know that when I bake in a bad mood, I occasionally get grumpier. (Really, only occasionally! Usually it works to cheer me up!) Unfortunately, as I type this with two pretty badly burned fingers, I have to admit that as I baked this, I wasn't at my best--and probably partially because of that, this wasn't my best baking experience. How did I burn my fingers you might ask? Oh, melting chocolate for the cake balls. What cake balls? Good question. The ones I made out of a layer of this cake that completely stuck to the pan, breaking apart to a completely unusable consistency. Sure, the cake balls are tasty, but these ones weren't cute...or intentional. It just wasn't going my way tonight. The (next) second and third layers of the cake that you see here also broke apart, but I managed to salvage them, and after some [very] careful frosting, I think achieved a relatively smooth texture with the buttercream.

I have had this recipe a long time now, and I've been dying to try it out, but I don't usually buy things like the aforementioned $11 vanilla bean paste. I wasn't really up for an extensive meringue-frosting-making sesh this evening, so I made my version with an easy vanilla bean cappuccino buttercream. I mixed together my usual buttercream but with an added tablespoon of the vanilla paste, a dash of cinnamon, and soem instant cappuccino mix. Yummy.

Sorry for the shorter post, but as you may have guessed, this little project exhausted me nearly beyond blogging.

Friday, November 4, 2011

NaNoWriMo

Ah yes, my new boyfriend. You may have heard of him. If not, this definitely fits under "pages," so I think I shall describe him a bit here. It took me a long time to work up the courage to tell you all about him, but then, isn't that the way with new relationships? I needed to make sure I was fully committed before I came clean, because if you like him, you might get too attached before I get attached, or I might get too attached before I'm sure he even wants me...you know how it goes.

For those of you who don't know, I have taken up an affair for the month of November with NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, through which I will be [hopefully] writing a 50,000 word novel. The concept, as I understand it, is quantity over quality. A sort of word-vomit approach to novel writing (sounds romantic, right?), by which the goal is to try to simply get 50,000 different words on paper by midnight on November 30, having not concretely started in any way until the morning of November 1. A novel approach (baha. bahaha.), but for me, I think, the right one. I am sick of looking at that line at the top of my bucket list that reads "write a novel," and thinking "yes, one day, I will do that." So I have decided to let NaNo sweep me off my feet.

So far, my new boyfriend and I are getting along swimmingly. We'll see how long he holds up with me in the long run, when it's no longer about dinner dates (getting acquainted over chinese food on Wednesday evening) and fresh mornings (like our wonderful 1800 word rendezvous early yesterday), but has turned into me struggling to keep my eyes open as we make time for one another late at night, as, let's face it, it unfortunately always does. It's not that I don't care NaNo, it's just that sleep apnea runs in my family and, well, your demanding word count can sometimes be a lot to take. I like you more and more each day, but that's despite your demanding deadlines, not because of them.

I know, I know, if you're reading this, you're likely dying to ask me: "What's the novel about?" Please don't. You can follow my affair on my NaNoWriMo profile, if you're interested in checking my word count or things like that, and I'd really appreciate you cheering me on as I attempt to make this work, but I'm warning you, we like to keep our relationship between the two of us, so don't expect excerpts or things of that nature. Like any relationship, you, my friends, will probably only hear the bad parts and rarely the good. Either way, I thought I should be clear about the reason for my new relationship glow or the mood swings and lack of want of baking or reading (or increased desire for, that's yet to be seen) I may be exhibiting over the next month.

Here's to day four, a great 6,601 word start, and an amazing 43,399 to come. Everyone, meet NaNo. I think I'm in love.