Archive | January, 2020

year of cake (+ the january cake)

23 Jan

For far too long, we as a society have been eating terrible cake. Dry cake. Cake with canned frosting. Cake that has no flavor. Frosting that is so sweet it rots your teeth upon contact.

And I won’t stand for it any longer! I won’t!

Thus, I have declared 2020 to be the Year of Cake. As I did with the Year of Pie in 2019, I am committing to baking a new (to me) cake every month. (Maybe more, if I’m feeling frisky.) (Probably not.) (But a girl can dream.) And like the 2019 Year of Pie, I can’t guarantee that I’ll tell you about all the cakes here, because…well, I just can’t. (However, it’s inevitable that I will post about them on the Insta, as the kids say. Or is it the ‘Gram? I have no idea what anyone says these days. I don’t even know what I’m saying right now, for the love of all that is holy. And WTF is Tik Tok?)

You’re welcome.

Not sure what for, but you’re welcome.

But wait, there’s more

I’m not just here to tell you what I’ve declared 2020 to be. I’m also here to tell you that I’VE ALREADY MADE MY JANUARY CAKE.

AND IT WAS GOOD.

Here’s how this magical moment happened: On New Year’s Day, we did our usual Salonica breakfast/Powell’s Bookstore trip, and it was while perusing Powell’s that I came across a Maida Heatter cake cookbook. I’ve been lurking in baking circles for long enough to know that Maida Heatter is Not To Be Questioned. And that her cakes Are Where It’s At. So naturally I grabbed the book and ran up to the counter, threw money at the clerk and ran out the door screaming, “IT’S MIIIIIIINE!”*

And then last week, some friends were coming over for a visit, and I thought, what better time to make a cake than when I can pawn the leftovers off on unsuspecting friends because otherwise my children will harass me to eat nothing but cake for the next 12 hours until I give in and then have to somehow explain to myself, my husband, and my God that said children are crabby and hysterical because they’re crashing from sugar so high it would make the Sears Tower weep. After a quick flip through the Maida Heatter book, I came across her recipe for orange chiffon cake with chocolate whipped cream frosting and thought to myself, “This looks delicious and mildly terrifying. I think I’ll make it for my guests.”

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Nudie-tudie cake.

The mildly terrifying experience of cake making

If you’re wondering what, exactly, makes a cake mildly terrifying, I shall tell you.

  1. It’s made in a tube pan, which comes in two parts, which in my head posed the risk of cake leaking out the bottom, and thus stinking up my kitchen with the smell of burned cake batter. (None of which happened.)
  2. It involves whipping egg whites to a stiff peak, and then whipping them a minute more because THE ENTIRE FLUFFINESS OF THIS CAKE RESTS ON HOW WELL I CAN WHIP THE DAMN EGGS. Also, you don’t want to whip them too much, lest you dry them out, which I didn’t even know was a thing but apparently it is and OMG how do you know if egg whites are too dry and this is how I end up staring fixedly at my mixer as it goes round and round and round and round in the egg whites and OMG it’s a cake, get a life, lady.
  3. It also involves hanging the pan upside down on a bottle immediately when it comes out of the oven, and you just let it…hang there…until it is completely cool. Fun fact: Every bottle in my house was too wide for me to hang the tube pan on, and I feared my cake was doomed until Swede grabbed some blocks from our toddler’s train set and we were able to prop the cake up that way.
  4. The instructions for getting the cake out of the pan read quite complicated and involve shoving a knife between the edge of the cake and the pan on both the outer rim and inner tube, and then under the bottom of the cake, which then becomes the top of the cake. It seemed the perfect storm for me to do something stupid, like somehow manage to saw a chunk out of the cake somehow, or manage to leave a wodge of cake stuck to the pan, a la most of my bundt cakes. (Miraculously, neither of these scenarios played out, and the cake came out easy peasy.)

It was just a little stressful, okay?

But in the end, it was worth it. The cake was loverly, and had a fantastic orange flavor. In truth it may have been overbaked slightly, but honestly I don’t think anyone much cared because we were all too busy falling in love with the chocolate whipped cream frosting.**

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Chocolate whipped cream frosting is where it’s at. 

Interwebers, I’m going to give it to you straight: that frosting is like the ranch dressing of desserts. I want to put it on everything. And it makes an enormous amount. So much that as you’re slathering it on the cake, you’ll inevitably think to yourself, “Surely this is too much frosting. It will without a doubt overwhelm the cake.” To which I say, “No. No it won’t. And also, when has too much frosting ever been a problem?”**

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The ideal cake-to-frosting ratio. The tiny human shoving her face in the background agrees. 

Cake, ho!

So, my friends, to sum up:

  1. I made a cake in January.
  2. It was delicious.
  3. I still don’t know what constitutes dry whipped egg whites.

I don’t plan on every cake I make this year to be a Maida Heatter cake, though I’m not opposed to it. I actually have a list of cakes I’d like to make, but if you’ve read me for any length of time you know that I adore making lists but when it comes down to actually following them I also adore throwing them out the window and going down a completely antithetical path. I guess we’ll just see what the next 11 months bring. But for now, January Cake: SUCCESS.

 

*It possibly was more civil and more restrained than that IRL.

**It possibly was just me and my 3-year-old who were falling in love. And by love I mean we were not above licking clean the bowl in which the frosting was made.

***When the frosting is shitty, that’s when. But that is not a problem in this scenario.

what pie is this?: a 2019 reflection

16 Jan

As you may remember, I declared 2019 to be the Year of Pie. I was hellbent on making a new pie every month, and sharing it with you all. Well, sharing the experience of it with you all. It’s not like I was going to show up on all of your doorsteps, pie in hand, though that would have been pretty amazong (which is a step above amazing).

And, Interwebers, I did it. Mostly. For 11 out of the 12 months, I made a new pie, and I shared it with you. Okay, not here, because, well, whatever, I just never wrote about it. But I’m pretty sure….goes and checks Instagram…nope, no I didn’t. I didn’t even post about all of them on Instagram. Oh well.

Trust me, though, I accomplished my Year of Pie that I set out for myself. And I consider finishing 11/12 of this goal as good as if I had made 12 out of 12. The only month I missed completely was October, and I’m not entirely sure why. It is my spirit month, after all—you’d think I’d have been reveling in All The Fall Baking at that point, but no.

And though there were some misses—LO! WERE THERE MISSES—there were some definite winners as well. The February pie comes to mind, as does the April topless pie (re: tart), the September pie (which I never wrote about here) and the November tart (same). I’d make all of these again, and in the case of the April tart, I already have, and don’t any of you be surprised if you come to my house and it’s in a regular rotation of dinner party desserts. YOU’RE WELCOME.

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The November topless pie, a chocolate raspberry tart. I never wrote about it, but believe me when I tell you it was Full of Yum. 

Year of Pie, I learned so much from you. I learned that making a crust from scratch isn’t as terrifying as I thought. I learned that I shouldn’t try to make up my own recipe, lest I’m left with a weird pie amalgamation that defies all pie rules, but not in a good way. I’ve learned that pie is delicious. Wait, no, I didn’t learn that, I already knew that. I learned that having a reputable source is key to making a good pie. I learned that I owe Sally’s Baking Addiction and King Arthur Flour many several thank yous for their delicious recipes. I learned that I am very picky about my pies, because no one should eat bad pie, and people, there are a lot of Bad. Pies. out there. Occasionally, those Bad Pies are made by me.

Year of Pie, you were marvelous. Thank you.

2019 Pies 

January’s Pie: Chocolate cream pie from King Arthur Flour

February’s Pie: Creamy Lemon pie from Sally’s Baking Addiction

March’s Pie: Fudge Bottom pie from Kitchn

April’s Pie: Brown Butter Raspberry Tart from epicurious

May’s Pie: Salted Honey Pie from David Lebovitz

June’s Pie: A terrible amalgamation of the crust from the March Pie and a twist on the filling from the February Pie. Don’t ask.

July’s Pie: Blueberry Pie, with filling from Sally’s Baking Addiction, and crust from King Arthur Flour

August’s Pie: Peach Streusel Pie from King Arthur Flour

September’s Pie: S’mores Brownie Pie from Sally’s Baking Addiction

October’s Pie: No pie. Bummer.

November’s Pie: Chocolate Raspberry Tart from…you know, I cannot remember. I think maybe Martha Stewart?

December’s Pie: Cranberry Pear Crumble Pie from Sally’s Baking Addiction

 

jeff bezos can’t keep me down, or, year 4 of movies

9 Jan

I made a goal for myself in 2019, to see at least 12 movies. It didn’t matter if it was in the theatre or on my couch, on a plane, or on a train, with a fox while eating lox, whatever. After 2018’s paltry showing, and with so many movies out there just waiting for me to love them, or to ridicule them, I felt called to explore more of the cinematic scene.

Not that you’d call what ended up being 2019’s movie list a “cinematic wonderland.” More like, “I have two small children, so you’re lucky there weren’t more cartoons on this list.” Really rolls off the tongue.

But 17! I watched 17 movies this year, you guys! And I will add that #17 got in just under the wire, as we watched it on New Year’s Eve. Because nothing says Happy New Year like watching a bunch of rich people whose souls have been destroyed by money, amirite? Plus, I would like it noted that this year I didn’t even include the holiday movies I semi-watched/fell asleep to! It’s been a banner year, I tell you. A banner movie-watching year. I’m not sure 2020 will be able to top such stellar movie watching progress on my end, but I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Movies I Watched + 3 takeaways from each 

January 1, 2019-December 31, 2019

 

  • 1. Fyre Fraud–1.You guys realize that this Billy McFarland is an utter sociopath and compulsive liar, right? Right? He’s like Ryan Howard on The Office, but on a much bigger scale. 2. I still don’t understand what the point of the Magnises card was. 3. Seriously, who is Kendall Jenner and why is she famous and coveted?
  • 2. Bee Movie–1. Really? This came out in 2007? I would have guessed earlier. 2. Humans and their honey stealing are terrible. Terrible! 3. Meh. Not my favorite animated movie I’ve seen.
  • 3. Like Father–1. Great soundtrack on this movie. 2. Kelsey Grammer is a very, very tan man, almost disconcertingly so. 3. Seth Rogan! What are you doing here, you random drop in celebrity? 
  • 4. The Theory of Everything–1. I had no idea Stephen Hawking was so droll. 2. Eddie Redmayne–just…wow. 3. I thought it was sad when he and Jane split up, but (as they showed it in the movie) I totally support it. 
  • 5. Breaker Uppers–1. The two main characters look so familiar to me, and yet going through their IMDB list, I’ve never seen a damn thing they were in. 2. The accents are a wonder to me. They are so melodious, even when they’re trash talking. 3. I should watch more Australian/New Zealand-made movies. 
  • 6. Can You Ever Forgive Me?–1. Melissa McCarthy is just It, isn’t she? She’s just…she’s just perfect. She’s on my list of invitees to the celebrity dinner party I would throw. 2. Who knew forging literary letters would get you stalked by the FBI! 3. Richard E. Grant. Oh dear. I think I shall have to have HIM at my celebrity dinner party as well. 
  • 7. The Incredibles 2–1. It’s entirely possible that Swede and I enjoyed this movie WAY more than our toddler did. 2. It’s entirely possible that Jack Jack was modeled after our infant. 3. “Num num coookieeehhhhhs” has now become A Thing in our household.
  • 8. Bohemian Rhapsody–1. I completely understand (and support) why Rami Malek won for best actor. 2. I wonder what Freddie Mercury would be like if he were alive today? 3. I was so excited about this movie that I’m pretty sure I missed half of it and now need to go back and rewatch it. 
  • 9. Aquaman–1. This movie is just Silly. 2. So, Mera–she’s a grown up Ariel, yeah? 3. I had no idea Nicole Kidman was in this movie. 
  • 10. Ocean’s 8–1. This is very heist-forward, and not-so-much plot line or character development forward. 2. I love all the women in this movie, separately and together. 3. I was kind of sad that Danny Ocean is presumably dead, yet hopeful that it is just a ruse. 
  • 11. The Post–1. I would have liked to see more about Graham on the personal side, and the struggles she faced in moving from Hostess with the Mostess to Publisher of a National Newspaper. I feel like there was more there, and I wanted them to get into it. 2. Can this really be considered a political thriller since we already know the ending? 3. I love Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks, full stop. Though Tom Hanks’ accent (??) in this movie is a little weird. 
  • 12. Always Be My Maybe–1. This is one of the most fun rom-coms I’ve seen in a VERY long time, and one I would happily rewatch over and over. I could NOT stop giggling to myself, and since I watched it on a plane ride to Chicago, my fellow passengers probably thought I was nuts. 2. Seriously, the writing is clean and smart and hilarious. 3. Two words: Keanu. Reeves. Another word: HILARIOUS. 
  • 13. Spies Like Us–1. I always forget how differently sex was portrayed in 80s movies, and how non-R rated things were, when they probably should have been. 2. Add this to the list of movies that never would have been made today. 3. Chevy Chase when he was still funny! 
  • 14. Secret Life of Pets 2–1. I missed about 20 minutes of this movie because I was walking the baby up and down the lobby. Don’t worry, I was still able to pick up the plot. 2. Lots of giggles during this movie, that I’m pretty sure went completely over my toddler’s head. 3. Going to a matinee on a Sunday is quite a treat. 
  • 15. Where’d You Go Bernadette?–1. This movie looks exactly how it looked in my head when I read the book. 2. I saw this movie in a dine-in theatre, where waiters came to ME, and brought ME food and wine, and I may never watch a movie another way again, and I think it just made me love the movie even more. 3. The casting for this movie was spot. on. 
  • 16. Ford vs. Ferrari–1. I love Matt Damon as an actor. There, I said it. 2. I was not expecting to like this movie as much as I did. 3. This is definitely one to see on the big screen.
  • 17. Generation Wealth–1. I love a good where are they now, and this documentary is like 90 minutes of that, with a side of money will ruin your psyche. 2. The truest character, IMO, is the former hedge fund manager who rails against money and wealth, but you can totally tell that’s only because he got caught and taken down. Otherwise, he’d still be flying high. Or possibly dead. Hard to say, really. 3. The best line (which I paraphrase here) in the whole thing is, hands down, “I would like to DJ until my fingers can’t spin anymore. I also have a passion for lizards.”

 

Netflix is really showing me something with their original movies! 

Also, assume that all of these movies are recommended, because if I didn’t include a movie on this list it’s because I never finished watching it, most likely because I didn’t enjoy it. 

And in case you’re wondering what my movie watching has to do with Jeff Bezos, it’s just…it’s a thing. 

 

i read and i know things.

2 Jan

Okay, that title is kind of a misnomer. I definitely read things–though this past reading year I read fewer (32 books) things than in years past–but I wouldn’t go so far as to say that means I actually know things. I know nothing, really. If I have concluded anything in life, it is that I know nothing.

I made a goal in 2019 to “actually finish any interesting book club books” and seeing as how I’m not in two–yes, two–book clubs, this meant that quite a few of the books on this Reading Year’s list stemmed from these groups. And there were some real gems: The Great Believers blew me away; Where the Crawdads Sing was read for both clubs, funnily enough; Stillhouse Lake was great, but there is no chance in hell I am going to read the rest of the series (because really I don’t need to be reading about serial killers, though the other gals in the book club really enjoyed the other books that followed it, so feel free to take their recommendation if you’re into it).

I will say there are a few book club books that I wasn’t able to finish–not that they weren’t good, or interesting, though perhaps they weren’t AS interesting as I thought they were going to be, or wanted them to be, if they didn’t capture my attention enough to keep reading them? I feel like there’s something psychological here I should poke at and evaluate, but yet not, because listen, there are so many books, and so little time, which is just the truest adage I’ve ever found in life. Maybe I’ll get around to finishing them this Reading Year. Or maybe I won’t. Hard to say, really. You just never know what a Reading Year will bring.

Year Thirteen of Books

Books completed between November 10, 2018 and November 9, 2019

Lucky Thirteen!

 

  • Transcription–Kate Atkinson* (Book club read) (There’s a bit at the end that is revealed that I was like, wait, what? But it didn’t detract from how much I enjoyed reading this book in the least.) 
  • The Royal Runaway–Lindsay Emory (Hmm…I guess I liked it? Kind of?  If there were a sequel I’d probably read it.) 
  • Christmas on the Island–Jenny Colgan* (ebook) 
  • Those Other Women–Nicola Moriarty* (ebook) 
  • Heartburn–Nora Ephron* (ebook) (What a strange, delightful book.) 
  • You Will Know Me–Megan Abbott (Book club read) (Terrible ending.) 
  • The Heirs–Susan Rieger* (ebook) (Book club read
  • Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows–Balli Kaur Jaswal* (ebook) 
  • The Identicals–Elin Hildebrand* 
  •  Fast Friends–Jill Mansell* (Not my favorite of Mansell’s books–this one packs a LOT into multiple years of the plot–but still an enjoyable read.) (ebook) 
  • Christmas at Rosie Hopkins’ Sweetshop–Jenny Colgan* (ebook)
  • Nine Perfect Strangers–Liane Moriarty* (Book club read
  • Exit West–Mohsin Hamid* (Book club read) (I’m giving this a recommended asterisk, but I’m honestly not sure if I recommend this book or not. I think I need to think on it a bit.) (Edited to add: Yes, I definitely recommend this one.) 
  • The Great Believers–Rebecca Makkai* (Book club read) (This may make my top 10 books of all time list. The writing is beautiful, the story–particularly the one set in 1985–is gripping [the one set in 2015, eh, it’s fine, but not as grabbing as the 1985], and it’s a look into a time and a culture that I’d never truly considered before. It made me laugh, it made me cry, and it made me heartbroken for all the lives lost too soon and too fast.) 
  • The Boy is Back–Meg Cabot* (A super-fast, cute read, though if you don’t like stories told entirely through emails, fictitious newspaper articles, texts, etc, this one is not for you.) 
  • Daisy Jones & The Six–Taylor Jenkins Reid* (It’s like a rocumentary, in book form! So fun.) 
  • The High Tide Club–Mary Kay Andrews (Not my favorite of her books, but a good beach read nonetheless.) 
  • The Wife–Alafair Burke* (Book club read) (It seemed a little slow, but picked up toward the end. But then again, I don’t read many thrillers, so maybe this is just normal pacing and building of the story?) 
  • Little Beach Street Bakery–Jenny Colgan* (ebook) It really says something about a book that even though you’ve read its two follow ups, so you totally know what happens, yet you still never want it to end anyway.) 
  • Where the Crawdads Sing–Delia Owens* (Book club read)
  • Save Me the Plums–Ruth Reichl* (A short, but entertaining read, and you get an inside look at her time as editor of Gourmet.)
  • The Kiss Quotient–Helen Hoang* (Wowee, she is not messing around with the sex in this one! Not for the prudish heart!) 
  • Rich People Problems–Kevin Kwan* (A fitting end to the trilogy!) 
  • Fame Adjacent–Sarah Skilton* 
  • The Bride Test–Helen Hoang* (Book club read) (A good follow up to her first book.) 
  • Everything’s Relative–Jenna McCarthy 
  • The Bookshop on the Shore–Jenny Colgan* (The ending of this one seemed to wrap up a little too fast, and it was a little confusing–she shouldn’t stay in the house with her son and the troubled 9 year old who almost killed him? But she does anyway, because the girl gets psychiatric help? Also, did she start her own bookmobile? I feel like I may have missed something–but all in all it’s another Jenny Colgan novel that I couldn’t put down. Le sigh of happiness, and wishing I could live in the Scottish Highlands.) 
  • Stillhouse Lake–Rachel Caine* (Book club read)
  • Ellie and the Harp Maker–Hazel Prior* 
  • Love and Death Among the Cheetahs–Rhys Bowen* 
  • Ask Again, Yes–Mary Beth Keane* (Book club read)
  • The Lager Queen of Minnesota–J. Ryan Stradal* (Book club read)

 

*Recommended 

You’ll see this year that I denoted which books I read that were ebooks. I was just keeping track of this out of curiosity’s sake. I feel like this year there were a disproportionately low number of ebooks, but that’s entirely me guessing, seeing as how I’ve never kept track until this year.