Florida the Beautiful

I’m going on day 5 of a lovely sinus infection. Instead of being cooped up all day, I try to get outside for fresh air as much as possible. Yesterday I snapped these:

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The rising sun splashed the blue ski with orange.

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Bright red leaves are all over the place.

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Perfect day for leisurely walks by the canal.

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Zeppelin was enjoying it so much, he didn’t want to go inside.

Today it’s going to get up to about 80°, so we plan on getting more shots today while enjoying Florida in January…in shorts!

Don’t Shit Where You Eat

Today I fell back in love with my kitchen. For the last six months or so, I’ve become increasingly overwhelmed in it. I had purged a lot of things and nailed down some new organization systems (which my husband is really good at it ignoring), but still felt like I had too much in too little space. I also started to get paranoid that I could never get it clean enough (I grew up with a friend whose house was always really dirty, and it stuck with me), so combined with the crampiness, I started to lose some creative mojo.

Like any normal person, when I have an extra day off- like I did today- I clean*. This morning I took everything out of my kitchen and pantry. Everything. I swept, mopped, sprayed, wiped and scrubbed. Then, I spent the rest of the afternoon putting everything away- neatly.

I realized that there were still a lot of things I could get rid of, too. Like the big ass coffee pot my mom bought me to replace the small French press of mine that she broke. “I know you had a simple one because you rarely drink coffee, so here’s a fancy electric one you’ll never use.” Makes perfect sense.

Now I wish I hadn’t planned such a simple meal for tonight- steaks on the grill, baked potatoes, big salad-  because I finally feel at one with my kitchen again instead of wanting to find a way to bring it to life so I could murder it.

*I truly do get a kick out of taking my time every now and then and cleaning the hell out of the place. Other times, though, there are at least a million things I’d rather do than a couple of dishes in the sink, much less getting wrist deep in toilet.

Sunday Funday: Brownie Roll-out Sandwich Cookies

I was in a funk yesterday. Since I have a 3-day weekend, I figured, eh, I can afford to have an off day. But when I woke up this morning still feelin’ blue, I knew a pick-me-up was in order. Behold: these tasty little sandwich cookies, some filled with coffee cream and others with vanilla cream, were the perfect remedy. I start with these brownie roll-out cookies, and then make the cream fillings with powdered sugar, a little milk and either a little coffee or vanilla extract.

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The cookies are simple, but extremely chocolatey. They would also make a great base for ice cream sandwiches. Which reminds me, I’ve got some ice cream to make!

Scenes from Christmas 2011

The holidays were very good to us this year. We’re just two atheists who adore the cheer of this time of year. We decorate everything in as much red and green as possible (there’s even an unspoken rule that you have to wear red and/or green on Dec 25), and enjoy or family traditions.

We started the weekend by meeting my brother and his wife for chocolate fondue on Friday night and a little gift exchanging; they got us a frozen yogurt maker, we gave them some homemade pepper vodka and some bar stuff. Then on Saturday we had my husband’s family over for lunch and more gifts. We capped off the night with our tradition of getting hot chocolate from Starbuck’s and looking at lights.

Christmas morning my husband lets me wake him up retardedly early so the fun can begin. We opened gifts, had blueberry pancakes and spent tne rest of the day with friends.

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Chocolate peppermint bark

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We add one new ornament each year- best one yet

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Red velvet cupcakes

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Zeppelin totally pooped from playing with his new toys

Hope everyone had a lovely holiday weekend, however you chose to spend it.

Eating: Private Fun/Public Shame

I absolutely hate eating in front of people, but sometimes it’s just unavoidable. I mean, I already eat alone in my work cafeteria every day anyway, hunched over like a freak with my nose an inch from my Kindle screen, so I can’t exactly take it further by, say, sequestering myself in a dark corner.

At home, I have zero hang ups about the way I eat (taking too big bites, laughing with my mouth open- classy stuff), and neither does my husband. We like to say we’re just enthusiastic about food. In public, I turn into a mess when other people are present while I’m eating.

I have to be very selective about what I eat in public. Salad may seem like a safe bet, but what about when the lettuce leaves are gigantic and I forgot a knife? At home I’d just shove that big piece of lettuce right into my food-hole, but not at work. Soup is usually a good bet. Easy to eat, minimal mess. I can even manage to talk to someone if I’m eating soup.

Sandwiches are a tricky bitch. It all depends- what kind of bread? What kind of filling? If it’s bread with some kind of grains or seeds on it or is particularly chewy or crusty, forget it. Too messy. If it’s really stuffed or I have to put on my own condiments, not likely.

The other part of the public shame of eating is that in my mind, everyone is looking at me thinking “What a pig!” and/or “What a slob!” I can’t just be picky about what I eat for the cleanliness factor, but what if these people are judging me for the health factor of my meal?

I see people at work eating a wide variety of foods with no qualms: big salads with lots of greens, a greasy sack of fast food, leftovers, etc. But for some reason I hold myself to this weird standard that means I can only eat soup or a frozen “health” meal.

I’m so hungry.

All my fears were brought to life today and now my hesitance to eat in front of others is even worse. I got a simple, non-sloppy sandwich from the cafeteria at work along with a green apple. But I was feeling hungry, so I also grabbed a bag of chips from the lounge in our office.

And just as I settled into the second half of the second Dark Tower book, the girl who had been sitting next to me looked over and said, “You’ve got this nice healthy lunch…and then a bag of Dorito’s!? Nice.”

You’ve completely crushed me, girl who sat next to me. I shall henceforth find a safe, dark hole to crawl into when I have to eat at work. Now I’m going home to “cut” a piece of chicken with my bare hands*, shove impossibly large bites into my mouth, and revel in the enthusiasm my husband and I share for keeping our meals private.

*I’ve been doing this since I was a kid, much to my mom’s dismay. I told her I did it because “it’s easier” but really I’m just a cavewoman.

Kitchen Fail: Roasted Garlic & Shallot Soup

So, here’s the thing: I don’t necessarily plan our weekday meals with a specific time frame in mind. I’m not going to come home at 6:30pm and try to make a beef wellington, but my husband and I are perfectly content to eat dinner at 9pm if it’s worth it.

Last night, I wanted it to be worth it. I love making soup, so this roasted garlic and shallot soup sounded perfect. Despite the less than stellar reviews, I’ve made enough soups to improvise with new recipes, so I figured I would make some changes as I went along. I was enthusiastic about this recipe until I pulled my shallots out of the oven. I was not liking the smell of them (though I love them raw), but I was already in too deep so I had to keep going.

Around 8:30pm, the soup was ready. I was so hungry, what with all the peeling and roasting and “what the hell did that step say to do again?” going on. I tentatively dipped my tasting spoon in, and whaddya know? It wasn’t good.

It wasn’t awful, either. I’m not a big fan of overly sharp flavors, and the shallots, when roasted, became very much so; kind of a mix between sweet and tart turned up to 11. That’s what killed it for me. The garlic flavor was barely noticeable, and overall, as my husband helpfully stated, “It’s just kind of bland.” Next time, for a truly rich soup with garlic as the star: replace the shallots with white or yellow onion, toss in a bay leaf or two, roast more garlic for longer, kick up the spice with some paprika, and serve with a dollop of sour cream.

We ended up snuggling on the couch with PB+J’s in hand.

A Personal Favorite

One of my favorite things to do is listen to music (insanely loud). I grew up constantly surrounded by music. My dad played guitar and sang, and my lullabies were “Rain Drops Keep Falling on My Head” and “Puff the Magic Dragon.” When my mom remarried, my teenage years were set to the soundtrack of my step-dad’s Iron Maiden and Rush albums. Once I married a metal drummer, it was pretty much the end of my mother’s hope that I would one day eschew the loud, testosterone-fueled world of rock.

This week, I got to see my personal music hero, David Bazan, live for the first (but hopefully not the last) time. It was a small show and my husband and I sat at a table by the side of the stage about 15 feet from him. And it only cost $12.

David Bazan live at The Crowbar in Ybor City, FL

An amazingly talented man in an amazingly shitty photograph

David Bazan is so fucking awesome, I can’t really even explain it. Suffice it to say that I do feel a lot of cheesy, cliche things when I listen to his music. I can relate to the despair and darkness, the struggles with identity, the frustration with society. His album Curse Your Branches came along at a particularly difficult time in my life, and helped strengthen my resolve when I told my parents I am (and pretty much always have been) an atheist.

Seeing him live was transcendent. A truly memorable, inspiring experience.

So raise your glass (of whiskey) to your favorite musician and try not to blow your speakers this time.*

*Potentially semi-interesting note: the car I got on my 16th birthday, which I still drive almost 10 years later, had its speakers blown while I was listening to Eighteen Visions and doing some pretty outrageous steering wheel drumming. I’ve never had them replaced (because I’m both cheap and broke).