Friday, January 30, 2009

Reality Check

Ugh. I suddenly feel very, very old.

I'm working on trading cards for a college hockey team and am formatting the information for the backs of the cards—height, weight, position, year, etc.—and there is a column in the spreadsheet for "birthdate."

Hold on. I'm getting kind of nauseous just thinking about it. Give me a minute.

OK, I'm back. I didn't pay close attention to the column headers, so at first I didn't realize what that date was. But then I thought, "Oh my God. That can't be their brithdate. Is that their birthdate?" And I got light headed and felt like crying. Sort of. Mostly I just felt—and still feel—discombobulated and slightly ill.

The freshmen were born the year I graduated from high school. (See, there's that sick feeling again.) Basically I'm old enough to be...their MOTHER.

So while some of those whipper snappers were still in utero, I was walking around looking like this:

I'm sure their mothers remember hair like this. How could you forget it.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Squeaky Snow

It's not quite "nails on a chalkboard" level, but the sound of snow squeaking under foot gives me a similar, unpleasant shiver up my spine and makes my teeth hurt. It's not my favorite way to start the day, that's for sure, but it's what I have to listen to as I walk from the car to the office door on these bitterly cold mornings. 

I guess the one good thing about having such a cold and snowy winter is that I'll appreciate spring all that much more. When will that be? It can't come too soon, I can tell you that much.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Celebrating Birthdays

On Sunday, we celebrated M's 9th birthday. It was a small, family affair as is the case with each of the girl's birthdays. Celebrating with friends is a separate occasion, so they can hang out with their friends and the rest of us don't have to. I kid. But not really.

I brought my new camera and used the girls for practice. There is bench in my sister's kitchen that sits in front of a sliding glass door. It was letting in lots of soft light, so I took advantage. I played around with my settings, trying to keep faces lit while not completely blowing out the window. Didn't always work...

I was fairly successful with some of my attempts, and K was a willing model.

(Man, I wish this kid would stop growing up so darn fast.)

M, on the other hand, quietly tolerated it, but clearly wasn't thrilled.

I'm still happy with the pictures—it's not always necessary to have a big smile for a good photo.

(Isn't she cute in her new glasses? Yeah, I think so too.)

C was her normal whirling dervish self and never sat still long enough for pictures. I did get one of her and K at their birthday celebration a month and a half ago. Their birthdays are a day apart, so the family gets together for both.

(Clearly this photo was taken with my point and shoot. Can I just tell you how much I'm loving my DSLR? So much!)

A New Day

It's official. Barack Obama is now President Obama and I couldn't be happier. I've waited for this day for eight years for purely political reasons. The end of the GWB era is something I voted and wished for four years ago. When he was re-elected, I mourned for weeks. Four more years? How could I endure it? I was so glad to get through the first four and the thought of another term put me into what I can only describe as a mild depression. It sounds melodramatic, but it's true. It was short-lived. I got on with my life of course, and the world didn't end. But it changed, dramatically so, especially in the last year of his term.

Obama inherits a steaming pile of crap, let's face it. But I honestly believe he is ready to face it, take it on and do the best he possibly can to turn things around. It won't be easy and it won't be fast, but I think we've turned a corner. I'm so thrilled to be a part of this and for the first time in a long time, I'm proud of my country and my president. Corny, but true.

We did it. We did something I didn't think we were capable of doing. Just think of what else this country is capable of.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Due to the impending OMG-we're-going-to-get-3-inches-of-snow-and-it's-going-to-blow-around-and-stuff-and-OMG-it's-freaking-COLD storm, I don't have tap class tonight. I wish I could say I was disappointed, but I'm not. Even though I'm pretty sure I'm not going to be stranded by The Storm, I was not looking forward to the drive. I make fun of it, but the blowing snow is a pain, not to mention having to deal with all of the other drivers on the road, I'd rather not have to mess with it. 

These single-digit temps, frigid wind chills and lake-effect snow showers are getting old. You'd think I'd be used to this by now since I've lived here my entire life, but I'm not. I don't completely hate winter, but I'd rather visit it every once in a while, when it was convenient or I felt like playing in the snow, than live in it all the time. OK, so it's not winter her forever, but sometimes this place feels like Narnia. But without all of the talking animals and stuff. 

(Shiny Distraction Tangent: Man, I can't tell you how much I wished I could get into Narnia as a kid. Seriously. In the middle of the night, I'd wake up and see a shadow on the wall and wish it was a door to that secret world. Honestly, if I'd ever actually GONE to a parallel world, it would have scared the crap out of me, but theoretically, it sounded way awesome.)

So anyway. The weather sucks — and blows — and I'm SO over winter. 

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Winter-Inspired Cake

I've been itching to make a cake since I got new cake pans for Christmas. I got the opportunity yesterday when I attempted to redeem myself after my previous effort at a cake from scratch. While this one turned out considerably better than the last cake, it could still use some help. The flavor was great. My company loved it, as did I, but I think other things could be improved. For one, I think I over cooked it. For another, I'd like to get a fluffier, lighter result. This one was fairly dense. Oh, well. Practice makes perfect, right?

I've made other kinds of cakes — bundt, coffee, apple, etc. — but very few basic cakes. By way of various leads, I found this cake recipe from Paula Deen at Food Network.

Basic 1-2-3-4 Cake

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 cups sifted self-rising flour
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Grease and flour 3 (9-inch) cake pans. Using an electric mixer, cream butter until fluffy. Add sugar and continue to cream well for 6 to 8 minutes. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Add flour and milk alternately to creamed mixture, beginning and ending with flour. Add vanilla and continue to beat until just mixed. Divide batter equally among prepared pans. Level batter in each pan by holding pan 3 or 4 inches above counter, then dropping it flat onto counter. Do this several times to release air bubbles and assure you of a more level cake. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until done. Cool in pans 5 to 10 minutes. Invert cakes onto cooling racks. Cool completely and spread cake layers with your favorite frosting to make a 3-layer cake.
Yield: 3 layer cakes
My notes: I halved this and and wanted a whiter cake, so I separated the eggs. I used three egg whites instead of 2 whole eggs. I also ended up using closer to 3/4 milk — 1/4 cup more than called for — because the batter looked far too thick. I need to play with the recipe a bit and/or make the full amount to see if it comes out better. Also, I did not have self-rising flour, so I used a basic substitution. For each cup of flour, you add 1-1/4 tsp baking powder and 1/8 tsp salt (there are slight variations in these measurements depending on the source).

As I mentioned in my notes, I halved the recipe since the original made three 9" cake layers and I did NOT need that much cake around my house. Dwight and I were having company over, so I wanted enough for the four of us, without a lot of leftovers. I was surprised to see that I only got one 6" layer out of half of the recipe. Hm, not sure how that works.

I got the idea for the assembly of the cake here (seriously, check out this link—the cake is very cool and her pics are gorgeous). I love the rainbow effect she achieved, but decided to go with a winter theme instead and stick with blue and white. The cake looks so cool when you cut into it, but the process is really simple.

Because I used just two colors, I put the batter into a measuring bowl to see how much I had, then measured out half to tint with blue gel food coloring. (I also tinted white decorator sugar with liquid food coloring.) Once the blue half was mixed, I greased and floured my pan and started alternating the batter.

Cool, huh?

I made a basic buttercream frosting with no precise measurements, but here's a good one.

Easy Buttercream Frosting
from Bakerella

1 cup (2 sticks) butter (room temperature)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1b. 10X powdered sugar
1-3 teaspoons milk, half and half or cream
  • Using a mixer, cream softened butter and vanilla until smooth.
  • Add sugar gradually, allowing butter and sugar to cream together before adding more.
  • If you want your frosting a little creamier, add a teaspoon of milk at a time and beat on high until you get the right texture.
  • Then, just use icing colors to tint the frosting the color of your choice.
Bakerella's note: This is usually just enough for a 2-layer cake, so I would recommend doubling this for a three-layer. But, I like a lot of frosting.

By the way, isn't this the most gorgeous cake stand? My mom got it for me for... who knows what, but I just love it. The base is silver, and clearly needs to be polished. I love the hobnail edge. She also got me the adorable glasses from my eggnog post. I love beautiful, old dishes and this blog has given me so many opportunities to use them – I love it!

Click on any photo to enlarge.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Three of my favorite people in the whole world

She's gentle, loving and kind. Sweet as can be and nice to everyone. She always wants to be of help and has always been a bit of a "little mommy." It's bittersweet to see her turning the corner from girl to young lady, but I look forward to seeing the woman she will become. She is a beautiful person inside and out. And she's my godchild.

This girl is fierce, in the best way. She is mighty, and always has been. She is brave and strong, but also incredibly funny and smart as a whip. She might be tiny, but her personality fills the room. She is her own person, through and through.

The quiet one. And you know what they say about the quiet ones. It's so true with C. She's the one to keep your eye on. But she is a joy and a goof ball, which means she fits right in. She speaks without words, giving tighter than tight hugs to show her love. She is utterly fearless and amazingly strong.

They are my nieces and they are the best.

Monday, January 5, 2009

You complete me

It took about 14 months, but the kitchen is finally (relatively) complete. When we bought the appliances, an over the range microwave was not in the package. We've looked at a few here and there, but decided that the old one worked fine and we'd deal with it later.

Enter Scott, Dwight's brother. He picked up this microwave for his house, but it didn't go with the rest of their appliances, so we made a swap. He took ours and we got the new one. Scott's giving ours to his oldest daughter since he found the right one for his house, so we played musical microwaves.

Isn't it purdy? Check out the top. See how it opens up when the microwave is running. That flap covers up the vent, keeping the look of the microwave very sleek.

Ah, the kitchen looks complete, even though it's a bit strange to see. I'd gotten so used to the white that I didn't notice the glaring difference between it and the rest of the appliances.

And here's the real bonus. The new one fit on the same brackets and into the exact same space as the other, so no messing with the tiles. Score!

Friday, January 2, 2009

NYE food prep images

Here are a bunch of images from December 30 of my New Year's Party That Wasn't food prep.

For cake complete cake ball instructions, visit Bakerella. She has some truly incredible ideas and tons of resources.

Red sangria prep

I found a website that described making "sangria syrup" which is basically a simple syrup with cinnamon. I had a white sangria in Florida that had cinnamon and other spices in it and I fell in love with it. When I saw the syrup recipe, I decided to give it a try. In addition to cinnamon, I added about a tablespoon of mulling spices to add some extra spiciness. I only had a small taste, but it was very good. I think Dwight ended up polishing off the batch on New Year's Day while tearing down and putting away all of the Christmas decorations.

No, I don't used the fanciest of wines for my sangria, but it does the trick. I photographed the pineapple, but didn't end up using it.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Not what I had planned

New Year's Eve ended up being interesting, but not in any way I could have imagined. It started out right. I began party preparations as soon as I got home, setting up the buffet warmer, making chili cheese dip, beer bread and assembling the pizza bites.

Just after six, I was still in the midst of the pizza bite prep and decided to take the beer bread out of the pans. They'd been out of the oven about 15 minutes. I dumped the loaf onto the rack and the heavy glass pan it was in somehow slipped out of my hands. It happened so fast, that I can't really remember exactly how it happened. But it hit the ceramic tile counter top and shattered. "Blew up" is probably more accurate, and part of the pan, on it's way to the floor, hit my right thigh. It didn't hurt, but I knew I should check to see if any damage was done.

I looked down and saw that my jeans were slit, cleanly, like a razor cut them. I quickly unbuttoned my jeans and pulled them down. Oh holy crap. There it was. A gaping, fairly deep and about an inch and a half long gash. The blood hadn't started yet, and there was no pain, but as soon as I saw how terrible it looked, I pinched the skin together and called out to Dwight, "I CUT MY LEG REALLY BAD."

He came rushing into the dining room where I'd stepped and saw for himself. I was amazingly calm and told him to get me band aids. I sat on the couch, holding the wound together. It had started bleeding fairly profusely at this point and I wasn't sure if the first bandage Dwight handed me would even stick. It did, but I said, "I need another band aid."

I'd dripped blood on the carpet at this point. Crap. I got a second bandage on and quickly wrapped the towel Dwight brought me around my thigh.

I then asked Dwight, "Do we have a bandage wrap?"
"Go get it," I said, calmly (I was amazed and how clear headed I was).

Dwight quickly came back upstairs with a white bandage. It was one of his lifting straps, but worked perfectly. He said, "Keep the towel on" and started to wind the stretchy band. I helped wind it around and around, pulling very tightly.

I couldn't pull up the jeans over the bandage, so I went upstairs and put on my dark gray knit pajama bottoms, which easily fit over the make shift triage wrap. While Dwight tried to get a hold of my parents, I turned off the oven, unplugged the buffet warmer and grabbed the Swiffer to push the shards out of the way. I didn't want the cats stepping on it. We got our coats, Dwight left a note for my parents, unlocked the front door so they could get in, and we headed out.

We got the the hospital and quickly got through the various processes for getting patient information, and they took us to a room.

They removed the wrap we'd applied and taped me up. I was prone at this point because I was feeling really light headed. I could feel the blood dripping down my leg and was thinking about what was to come. Blood and needles make me nauseated just thinking about them.

They decided to do x-rays to make sure no glass was in the wound, so I had to wait for that. The nurse wheeled me to the x-ray room where I had 4 images taken by a totally adorable tech that looked like he was about 20 years old. Ah, you know you're getting older when you start thinking of people like this as "kids".

Since it had been forever since I'd had one, I was due for a tetanus shot. The guy giving the shot walked in with the capped syringe and I could see that the needle was GIGANTIC. Seriously, this thing was scary. I was scared. Bruce (that's the syringe-wielding dude) chatted a bit, I got my right arm out of my sweater and turned my head, waiting for the stick. I could feel him wipe the area and fiddle around a bit, but it wasn't until he was applying the band aid that I realized he'd given me the shot. Seriously. It was amazing. I instantly told Bruce that he could give me a shot anytime. I still can't get over that it didn't hurt in the least and it hasn't hurt at all since.

Then the real business began. The doctor removed the tape they'd applied and she said, "There's something black in here." Oh, great. At first we thought it might be part of the baked on bit from the pan, but then I thought of the jeans. They were very dark blue. She said they would need to scrub it. SCRUB IT? I moaned, "Will it be numb??" and they assured me that it would be. WHEW! Except, not so "whew". Numbing it — what I'd been dreading ever since it happened. Dwight held my hand and I squeezed and squeezed. I felt three shots, the last of which was the most painful, but it was over pretty quickly and I'd gotten past the worst.

She did a running stitch on the inside and 5 large stitches on the outside. Those will have to be removed by my doctor in 10 days. Everyone was SO nice and we managed to get in and out of there in very good time. I'd heard horror stories about 8-hour waits, but we were there maybe and hour and a half from walking in to walking out.

After a stop at CVS, we went home. My parents were already there, cleaning up and getting things around. Well, it turns out that Dan and Jamie, co-workers and friends had stopped by, came in and saw the note. They stayed and cleaned up the glass, put away food that was left out and even started to clean up the blood in the carpet. It was one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. What amazing people!

I had to toast the new year with Fresca since alcohol was off limits, between the Motrin and antibiotics.

It was a New Year's Eve to remember, that's for sure. Just goes to show that you never know what's going to happen and that I'm so grateful it wasn't worse. I survived and will be just fine. My jeans, however, will never be the same.

My jeans, after being washed—they weren't frayed when it happened.
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