csb june, or: let’s have a party with chocolate and sour cream

23 Jul

At the end of June, there was a conversation between me and my pal Beh Beh. It went something like this:

Beh Beh: Come over and sit on my porch with me and drink alcoholic beverages.

Me: Okay. I will bring popsicles made of booze.

Beh Beh: We are brilliant.

Except that in a frenzy of something-I-now-can’t-remember-so-clearly-it-was-major, my brilliance failed me, and I didn’t leave enough time to narrow down exactly which boozy popsicle I wanted to make, buy the ingredients, and freeze it all together.

Hence, our next conversation went something like this:

Me: You’re getting cupcakes instead. And prosecco.

Beh Beh: Yum.

I figured that for the cupcakes there was no time like the present—seeing as how I’d flagrantly failed to meet the June 20th deadline—to make the June CSB cake. And, it should be noted that since I’d last baked with the group, the rules had been altered slightly to allow bakers to choose from one of four cakes to bake, rather than everyone baking the same cake.

June 2014 Cake
I chose the sour cream chocolate cake, because I have an undying love for adding sour cream to baked goods; let’s just disregard the fact that it took me until almost July for the follow-through.

(Better late than never? Maybe?)

Anyway, as I will continue to champion until my dying days, sour cream in baked goods is marvy. It adds an almost whipped-like texture to the batter and more often than not results in a non-dry cake. If you don’t know about sour cream in baked goods, now you know. You’re welcome.

Cupcakes unfrosted 

Needless to say, these were an excellent accompaniment to our porch sitting and prosecco, particularly since I stuffed them with a strawberry whipped cream frosting (not in the book, a recipe I found online) that I would only change next time by adding more strawberry puree. And perhaps Frangelico. Or maybe bourbon. Or Bailey’s. Really, any one of those would work well because booze and whipped cream are MFEO just like Romeo and Julie, minus the depressing undertones of teenage suicide.

(WTF, Shakespeare?)

Unlike several of the recipes I’ve made from this book, I (obviously) really took to this recipe. I per usual disregarded the whole one tablespoon of sugar at a time because standing and mixing in sugar until your knees give out is no way to spend a Saturday and did you not read the part about the prosecco calling my name?

And if by chance you were wondering if I had to ask Swede if freeze-dried coffee is the same thing as instant coffee, showing both the age of this cake book and my ignorance of coffee-related nomenclature, well the answer is yes.

So come on over next time you’re around. We’ll go sit on Beh Beh’s porch and eat cupcakes and drink prosecco. And you can have some Sanka if you like, because don’t worry, I’ve got a whole jar, minus 2 teaspoons, in my freezer.

Cupcakes frosted

stranded and not completely hating it

16 Jul

I spent a week outside of Baltimore in early May, which was all fine and good until it came time for me to actually leave Baltimore and go home. Apparently Baltimore fell so very much in love with me that it didn’t want me to go. And Chicago, for its part, was apparently righteously irritated with me, and with the two cities’ combined efforts they managed to trap me in the A terminal of BWI for seven hours on Mother’s Day.

While spending seven hours in an airport doesn’t crack my Top 10 Things I Like to Do (but it is a worthy contender for the Top 100), at least I was at BWI, and not, say, the airport in Columbus, Ohio. Sorry, Columbus, but you just don’t stack up to BWI’s terminal A. Because between the people watching, the food court, and the Swarovski kiosk all within tethering distance, the seven hours didn’t fly by (no pun intended) (maybe), but they sure did put on a show.

So if you are ever held at gunpoint and forced to choose an airport terminal in the mid-Atlantic region in which you must spend seven hours, may I A) suggest that your hostage-holder address his or her other far more serious issues of holding people hostage with an incredible amount of specifications, and 2) suggest you spend that hostage time at BWI?

Here’s why:

1)    The food court has Chipotle. And I love Chipotle. And it’s nice to be stuck in an airport and not have my options limited to McDonald’s, McDonald’s, or Hardees. (Is Hardees even still around?) I mean, if you have to be stuck in an airport, it should at least have easy access to chips and guacamole.

2)    There is a Swarovski store right next to a store selling all of the USA/AMERICA! paraphernalia you could ever want. Do you know what that means? A Whole. New. Sparkly. Wardrobe. You’ve got the time, so why not grab a hoodie and put your bedazzling skills to work?

3)    There are banks of outlets as far as the eye can see. Or at least it seems that way. There was definitely a long bar of outlets, as well as many several other wall outlets which for people frantically trying to contact the airline or their loved ones and tell them to go to hell and question how could they strand them in Baltimore (the airlines, not their loved ones…mostly) was imperative for the dying cell phones. Normally you can’t find an open outlet to save your soul at airports, but BWI Terminal A? Not a problem. And as the hours went on and the crowds thinned as more and more people rebooked for a flight the following day or on another flight through another city, there were more than enough open outlets that one guy propped up his tablet and streamed the Blackhawks game. Big win, IMHO.

4)    It’s open and airy and not far from the security lines. That means that instead of feeling claustrophobic and cramped while you wait to hear your flight called, you can enjoy the sunshine. And then the sunset. And then watch the stars come out. And watch the night sky deepen even more. Because dear Christ on a cracker is your flight ever going to get called? GAH. But on the plus side, you also didn’t have to haul your bulging, overburdened carry to the farthest gate at the farthest terminal. Though you did still have to battle security lines, which I think means you’re free to reward yourself with extra guacamole.

still well stocked in sugar and flour

9 Jul

Despite what you may think due to lack of words on this blog lately, I am still here, and I do still bake things. In fact, I’ve whipped up quite a few treats in the past month or so to:

A)   Relieve boredom

B)    Relieve my cabinets of extraneous ingredients

C)    Feel an intense pride that I did not let bananas go to waste. Again.

I’m not proud of my banana waste, Interwebs. I’m truly not. So one fine Saturday a few weeks back I did something with some bananas I’d bought, and that something was to add them to chocolate chips and bake them into bread, and life was good and my kitchen smelled happy.

I’m sorry, I just get very emphatic when I can put bananas to good use.

Anyway, this is all to say that you can expect some baking-related recounting to come your way soon, and won’t that be exciting?

No, actually.

It will be BANANAS.

Speaking of which, unlike the last time I successfully made banana bread (it’s a rare occasion, surprisingly), I did two things differently this time:

1)    I made mini loaves (because I figured they’re easier to control, and I love lording a baking dictatorship over quick breads)

and

2)    I used my family’s recipe rather than the recipe from the Joy of Cooking (because I’m a traditionalist and enjoy following recipes I’ve scribbled on an M-shaped note pad with directions such as “mix wet and dry. Bake 350 1 hour or whatever.”)

Also, potential difference #3: the aforementioned chocolate chips (because just because).

And lo! Did these two (maybe three) differences make a difference and never again shall I make a full-sized banana bread, particularly because I still have two mini-loaves lovingly wrapped in tinfoil and stored in my freezer. There is only so much banana bread you can eat in one sitting, after all, and granted that so much is unsurprisingly quite a lot and now I’m thinking these frozen loaves might do well to turn into some sort of bread pudding that involves a bourbon caramel sauce and holy Sweet Mary Mother of God I think I just made my own head explode with my own brilliance.

It’s about to get crazy up in this weblog, you guys. I hope you brought a fork.

Banana Bread

four on the 4th

7 Jul

A belated 4th of July post for you, as I was too busy running around Michigan City swigging wine and looking at fireworks to post on the actual 4th. I’m sure our forefathers would approve. 

 

Happy birthday, America! I was going to make you a cake!

(No, I wasn’t. But if I had, how would I share it, anyway? You are a landmass with no opposable thumbs. Knives and forks are lost on you.)

I do so love the 4th of July, beyond the basic reasons of I Get A Day Off of Work and Hot Dogs. There is so much more to love about the 4th of July in addition to fireworks and ice cream and enjoying the Boston Pops performance of patriotic songs from the comfort of my air conditioned living room. (Except sparklers. These are NOT on my To Love About the 4th list. Sparklers terrify me. They’re just so jumpy and twitchy and flare-y, with bits flying anywhere, just waiting to throw your bangs up in flame.) In fact, I can think of four specific things that fill me up with red, white, and blue love on this happiest of Take That, You Mean Brits Day.*

1)    I get to post this on my Facebook page. And Sam the Eagle, in all his pomposity and righteousness, makes me silly happy.

2)    It feels like summer is now actually happening. June is a crapshoot, weather-wise, and it’s such an, I don’t know, half-finished month. Maybe school is out, maybe it’s not, depending on your district. Perhaps you’re still waffling on your law firm’s softball team name (Scared Hitless or Cases Loaded?). But July, and the fourth of, well. It’s the first full, glorious month of summer, in my opinion, lock, stock, and 95 percent humidity barrel. And the 4th of July is the harbinger of the season.

3)    I can now buy corn with abandon. Obviously I’m thinking of the old adage, “knee high by the 4th of July,” which now that I think about it means that the corn crop still has some time to go and really I should wait until August(ish) to buy corn with abandon, but I probably won’t because I’ve never been one to wait long to eat hot, melted butter on things.

4)    Cymbals. There really is not enough percussion-laden music in this world, particularly that which features cymbals. But the 4th of July, it’s like all the clashing and banging you’ve ever wanted and doubly enhanced by the sweet sound of elephantine tubas. I love a good triangle, too, so really what I’m trying to say is fire up the marching band and John Philip Sousa and your ass over my way.

Happy birthday, USA. God bless you and God bless America. So…you. Again.

 

*Not that I think the British are on the whole a mean lot. Things were just different back then in Ye Olde England, methinks. 

photo friday: me looking at you looking at me

13 Jun

Sears Tower

In February, Swede and I took a helicopter ride around the city skyline. You might say that February doesn’t seem like an ideal time to fly around, high in the frozen air, but that’s where I would have to tell you you’re wrong. To see the city from above is astounding any time of year. We flew the length and back again, the buildings and lake iced over and donning a top sheet of snow, and I only had to grope around for the Oh Shit handle a handful of times when we banked left or right or happened to look down, as I did when we flew past this skyscraper you might have heard of.

“To our right is the Willis Tower,” our pilot said, and I rolled my eyes. (It’s still the Sears Tower, okay?) “And now you can take pictures of people taking pictures of you,” he added.

I looked a little closer, and sure enough, we were flying by the step-out platforms of the skydeck, and people were waving and clicking away. So I waved and clicked back. And then I happened to look out the window, and instead of keeping my focus on the people across from me I looked down.

And very, very quickly decided that the best thing for me to do was to not do that again.

 

photo friday: musicality

6 Jun

NOLA Street Musicians copy

I was in New Orleans—this time for work—again in April, and had some time to kill before getting down to business. I sweat my way through the French Quarter as I was wholly unprepared for the no-joke 40-degree temperature change between Chicago and Louisiana.

Worth it, though, to stumble across this trio on a Monday afternoon, sharing their music for anyone who wished to listen.

mcpolish summer 2014 reading list

4 Jun

Chicago Public Library copy

It’s June, which means Memorial Day has come and gone, and in between trying to locate my white pants which I think I stored in a plastic tub behind a box of plates and Christmas ornaments, and trying to decide whether or not it’s appropriate to show up to my tennis lesson with a pitcher of margaritas (it is) (I’ll share!), I’ve been busy tackling my absolute favorite summer activity, which is Putting Together a List of Books I Probably Won’t Read.

It’s not that I don’t want to read them—exactly the opposite, I desperately want to read them. It’s more, well, that I am not, frankly, the best at STICKING to reading lists. I tend to get distracted by other books, and then the next thing I know, my lovely list of beautiful books has fallen by the wayside in favor of reading these other books that caught my eye, and then sometimes even those books fall by the wayside when I am distracted by yet more books and so at any given point in time I have 22 books checked out of the library or sitting idly on my shelves, and really this is all my parents’ fault, because if they’d just made me a trust fund kid like I’d asked them to I wouldn’t have to work and thus would have time for both the list of books and the distractor books and the idle books and also probably a pony.

God, they are cruel people, my parents.

Anyway, so I’ve gathered a list of books—some recommendations from friends, some from reviews I’ve read in newspapers and magazines, some random covers that caught my eye at the library that one time I showed enough restraint to not check out 17 books at once—and have put them together for the McPolish 2014 Summer Reading List.

Side note—I have big plans to read most of these as actual paper and ink books, rather than on my kindle. Not that I don’t love my kindle (I do, muchly), it’s that I recently realized, Hot Damn! I miss the sensation of turning an actual page, rather than a figurative one like on an e-reader or like Bob Seger and his Silver Bullet Band.

The takeaway friends, is this: I’m going to read some books, and this is what I (might) read, in case you yourself are looking for something to read in the coming sweaty months.*

The Summer 2014 McPolish Reading List**

Ladies’s Night—Mary Kay Andrews

The Wishbones—Tom Perrotta

Amy Falls Down—Jincy Willett

Lola’s Secret—Monica McInerney

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves—Karen Joy Fowler

The Wolf and the Watchman—Scott Johnson

Neither Here Nor There—Bill Bryson

 

*You’ll notice that the list is quite short, by McPolish standards. I’m working on behavioral changes lately, which focus on setting goals for myself that are “reasonable” and “realistic.” ANd being “patient.” Gah. The fact alone that I am attempting this I think means I’m in over my head. Wish me luck.

**These are just my own thoughts on what to read, and I’m linking to Amazon not because anyone paid me to but because it was the easiest place to link. 

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