Tag Archives: nerd alert

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

 

and now we are 40

15 Mar

I turned 40 a couple days ago. I feel pretty good about that. I didn’t complete any more of the five goals I had set for myself beyond the one about going to Canada. Which I still haven’t told you about, but I’m sure I’ll get around to it. At some point. I’m not giving up on this list, though. I still want to do the other four things, and so I think I shall. I may even add some other things, though I can’t think of what those things might be right at this moment.

You’ll be happy to know that I’ve learned some things in my 40 years on this planet. Not many things, but some. And I’m still learning, which is the most important part, I’m told.

Here are a few (but not all) things that I’ve learned so far.

I’ve learned…

…money is not something to trifle with. Money is a tool, and it can be a powerful tool. On the flip side, tools can be dangerous if not handled properly. Money is no exception.

…and furthermore, there is not nearly enough education around money in this country. Because if you read the news, people are f-ing dumb when it comes to money (I say this knowing that I myself have had my dum-dum moments about money). Given the lack of financial education we as a society have, for God’s sake, people, educate yourselves. Don’t be dumb!

…I am not made of straw. I will not topple over in the wind, and I mean that both literally and figuratively/emotionally/mentally.

…God, I really love dill pickle relish.

…people will still love me even when I’m a jerk. And better yet, they will still like me. Which is good, because I can often be a jerk (and often without realizing I’m being a jerk). And in turn, there are people I still love and like even when they are jerks, and I have no intention of stopping.

…sometimes people don’t like me, even when I’m not a jerk. Oh well.

…I can’t get what I want if I don’t ask.

…I’ve reached a point in my life where I’m not always comfortable leaving the house without putting on my eyebrows.

…take care of your body. It’s the only one you have.

…take care of your mind. It’s the only one you have.

…people who do not support mental health, or feel that taking care of your mental health makes you somehow “less than” are not worthwhile people.

…I was totally wrong when I’d think that there was always someone out there whose life is more together than mine. I realized that that is impossible, because that someone else is not actually living my life, they are living THEIR OWN life, so how can it be more together than my own, when the two lives are inherently different? And furthermore, let’s be real—my life is as together as I make it and/or feel it is. Trying to compare it to someone else’s is just stupid. It’s like believing what people post on social media is the really real-deal of their day to day life.

…“Do it for the story” are (still) great words to live by.

… so are “Never trust a big butt and a smile.”

…relationships (romantic, friend, any kind, really) are hard. Anyone who says they aren’t is lying through their goddamn teeth.

… Who are you? Why are you here? What’s important? What’s not important? are the four guiding questions that resonate with me, and sometimes I have answers and sometimes I don’t.

…writing makes me whole.

This is 40.

things i miss since becoming a parent

8 Mar

Oh sure, like every parent I miss the usual things like sleep and being able to jet off to exotic lands at a moment’s notice for the weekend,* and going to the bathroom without an audience. But when you become a parent, you adjust to the loss of those things pretty quickly whether you like it or not, and eventually sleep becomes a vague concept, exotic lands are very far away from where I live and thus not really worth the plane flight for a mere 48 hours of different scenery, and well, if you have a dog you gave up going to the bathroom by yourself a long, long time ago.

So no, these are not the things I really miss. The things I miss, since becoming a parent, are much deeper than that.

Sitting at the bar. Swede and I went on a proper date night recently. We went for dinner and drinks and then we went to see a play because we are cultured and shit. And also because tickets were only $15. And we drank our drinks while bellied up to the restaurant bar, and I realized that it is a rare occurrence that I get to sit at the bar and sip some booze. And lo! How nice it was! So adult-like and swanky. And something I just don’t do enough of these days, because bar-sitting is just not conducive to toddlers, particularly those toddlers who like to dick around on barstools rather than just sit in them like a normal person. Also because it is illegal in some states to let people under the age of 21 sit at a bar. But mostly because tiny humans can’t sit still and nothing ruins a good drink faster than having to leave to treat your child for a concussion.

Driving by MYSELF. Listen, I don’t drive a lot in general these days (thank you, commuter train to work, and husband who drives more often than not when we go places) and when I do, it’s usually with two small humans in tow. I love listening to them babble in the backseat, and I can maneuver them in and out of their car seats like a champ. But driving by myself, or even just me and the dog? Wow. Just, WOW.

On Christmas Eve I volunteered to go pick up the pizzas we were serving to our guests (yes, we had pizza, and yes, it was glorious). I got into the car, and after a brief moment of panic when I looked in the rearview mirror and didn’t see either child in their car seat, followed by a quick relief with the realization that they were at home with Swede and various aunts and cousins, well. I have never felt such freedom. I was responsible for no one but myself and pizza! In those 15 minutes, you would have thought I was Julie Fucking Andrews playing Maria von Goddamn Trapp, except instead of a hilltop I was twirling around in a Subaru.

Thinking about one thing at a time. I was going to say that before I had kids I could separate thoughts into individual…thoughts. But now with kids it all just sort of runs together, at a constant, eager clip, because if it doesn’t, then surely 30 things will be forgotten, whereas if you let it all run together only 10 things will be forgotten. (shoesdiapersextraclothesdidwedropoffthecheckforsummercampwhatsfordinnerwhendidwelastbathethechildrenischeeseandacceptabledinnerwhereareallofourpants)

But then I realized that I’ve never thought about one thing at a time, and it’s always run together. Pre-kids it was maybe only thinking about five things at a time, which is admittedly better than my current 712, but it was never just one thing at a time. So this isn’t really a being-a-parent-thing, it’s just an I’ve-always-been-that-way-thing. Yet still I miss those halcyon days of five. I’m not sure my brain actually knows how to think about one thing at a time. So much chatter over and under and over and under each other in my brain, it’s really no wonder I’m in therapy. But I could do without all the clutter in my head, and I’m hopefully that one day the 712 will scale back to the low 300s.

I’m doubtful, but hopeful.

 

*I’ve never done that.

i can’t even blame jeff

18 Jan

I’ll just go ahead and say it: This was my most pathetic year of movie watching yet.

Eight? Eight movies? That’s all I watched?

What the shit was I doing with my time?

No, really, can someone tell me? My memory of 2018 is hazy at best at this point. (A defense mechanism, as trying to process all that went on last year in one fell swoop would most likely make my brain and heart and toes throw themselves up and declare defeat.)

I could maybe squeeze it to nine movies, if I count all the partials of Netflix/Hallmark holiday movies I watched. I don’t think I finished a single one, gripped instead by the exciting world of sleep that drew me in, drew me away from whatever PR rep/caterer/event planner was falling in love on the screen with the high school boyfriend who got away/prince in disguise/hotshot business man. But seeing as how they’ve all melded together in my mind into one giant super holiday movie (now THERE is an idea for a screenplay!) I’m not sure I should.

And unlike last year, when it was completely and utterly Jeff Bezos’ fault that I didn’t watch very many movies, the fault is all mine this year. In my defense, though I watched only a few movies, the movies I did watch were quality movies and quite spectacular: Lady Bird, Molly’s Game, Black Panther. I watched some simply terrific movies this year.

So at least there’s that.

Movies I Watched + 3 takeaways from each

January 1, 2018-December 31, 2018

 

  • 1. Black Panther*–1. Black Panther has, by far, the best superpowers of any superhero. 2. “I thought you meant Coachella, or Disneyland.” 3. Golden spears and pet rhinos would make the world a better place.
  • 2. Lean on Me*–1. Morgan Freeman and Robert Guillaume. Does it get any better? No. 2. I think we can all agree that the 1989 version of the song Lean on Me is FAR inferior to the Bill Withers version. 3. Charmain! Oh, Laaaance.
  • 3. Sing!*–1. Johnny the Gorilla singing I’m Still Standing is the best. The best! 2. A pig in sequined spandex and a German accent? Yes, please. 3. I really can’t stand that singing mouse. Sorry, Seth, McFarlande.
  • 4. Molly’s Game*–1. Aaron Sorkin, you’ve done it again.Thank you for being talented. 2. Apparently the character played by Michael Cera is supposed to be, in real life, Tobey Maguire? And Tobey Maguire is apparently a complete dick in real life. 3. Idris Elba is in this movie, which I didn’t realize and which I love and also he works for Gage Whitney, which WELL PLAYED, MR. SORKIN. (And if you don’t know what that means then you clearly need to watch the West Wing another few times.)
  • 5. All the Queen’s Horses*–1. I would LOVE to hear Rita’s take on all of this. 2. Who the hell keeps 300 horses? 300 HORSES. That’s just…a lot of horses. How do you keep them all straight? 3. It’s still astounding to me that the city of Dixon never noticed that such large sums of money were going missing.
  • 6. The Secret Life of Pets*–1. You know, even cartoon movies about animals in potential danger make me a little anxious, and are hard to watch. 2. I had to do a LOOOOT of IMDBing to find out the voices behind the characters for this one. Though Kevin Hart, surprisingly, I got right off the bat. 3. This movie made me want to take my dog with me everywhere all the time. More than I do already. Because I’m That Person, and I’m fine with that.
  • 7. Lady Bird*–1. Laurie Metcalf is the newest person to be added to my Fantasy Dinner Party that includes Meryl Streep, Kate Winslet, Kristen Bell, and Reese Witherspoon (and John Goodman and Tom Hanks, if I decide to make it a co-ed dinner party). 2. I used to wonder why parents would get all uptight about their kid going far away to college or moving to a city far away, but I get it now. You spend so many years raising this person that you love more than life itself, and then they want to leave and there’s a risk that they might never come back and it’s heartbreaking to think about. 3. Yup. That’s 2002.
  • 8. Crazy Rich Asians*–1. This was much like and yet nothing like the book. 2. I would not mind going on a free shopping spree on a private island. 3. The long-lost dad thing makes sense in the book, but makes absolutely no sense here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2019 year in preview

3 Jan

I’m not sure if you know this, but 2019 is the Year of the Pie.*

It is because I am declaring it so.

I’ve made a few pies in my life. I mean that literally. I’m not trying to be clever or shrug off a major accomplishment as if it’s no big deal, like really I’m a pie expert and could make pie in my sleep and have won pie contests 16 years running but when I’m asked if I’ve ever made a pie simply reply with a non-committal “Oh, I’ve made a few pies here and there.”

I once made a chocolate pie for a Thanksgiving gathering that never set, so it was more like chocolate goo in crust. I didn’t even bring it to the gathering. I’ve made a pumpkin pie. It was okay. I’ve made fresh tomato pie—the only time I ever attempted a homemade crust—and while delicious I know it did not turn out how it was supposed to. (Though if it was still delicious, does it really matter if it doesn’t meet what the recipe says?) I’ve made lemon meringue pie twice and they were both spectacular, far and away my best pie success.

I’ve always been a fan of eating pie, especially good pie. And I define good pie as pie that has a delicious filling (obviously) but also has a crust worth eating. Because you may or may not know this, but a lot of pie crust? Is dumb. And terrible for eating. It’s as bad as having terrible pizza crust, the kind you leave discarded on the plate because there’s no point in spending the energy to chew it.

But last year, while staying with kind friends during The Renovation That Engulfed Our Lives, my friend made three pies in two weeks. And they were amazing pies—complete with amazing crust. They gave me faith in pie crust that previously did not exist. And it made me want to try my own hand at making pie, not once, not twice, but 12 times. Once a month, one new pie I’ve never made. (PS—I’m taking suggestions.) So that’s what I’m going to do in 2019.

Pie.

*I mentioned in a post long ago and many moons away that 2017 was the Year of Ice Cream, and I was WILDLY successful (by my standards) at making one new ice cream flavor per month. I ended up making 10 of the 12 months, with some terrific hits (brown sugar bourbon comes to mind) and some bleh misses (I’m looking at you, baklava ice cream). 2018 was going to be the year of the cookie, but I only made one (pan-bang chocolate chip cookies, which are delicious) and then got tired (pregnancy and house renovations will do that to you) (I know, I know, I sound like a broken record when I say things like that, but that was my 2018, and I’m sure I had other feelings and emotions and that other things happened but for the life of me I can’t remember them right now).

 

 

 

 

 

unpacking, again

8 Nov

We’re still unpacking.*

And it’s making me question many of my life choices.

Why do I have all of these knick-knacks?

Why did we register for 17 different platters? Because now we have 32 different platters.

Why did we pack a paper grocery bag full of junk mail and sundry papers?

Stuff upon stuff upon stuff and it’s overwhelming sometimes to even look at it, let alone dig deeper than the first layer of crumpled newspaper used as protection against…what? Ourselves? Because it’s not as if it was used as protection from other objects banging around next to it. That would require that I’d packed these things in some semblance of order.

I didn’t.

Towels are in with steak knives. Plates are packed with baby toys. Shoes are packed with silverware. There is little rhyme or reason to my packing. If there is any rhyme or reason at all. Really it’s more like it was an unrestrained flinging of things into the nearest container possible and shoving it out of sight. Which worked at the time, and probably made sense to me at the time. A lot of things make sense to Past McPolish. Present and Future McPolish are often left beffudled.

Why do we have so many coffee mugs?

Do I really need a platter specifically for deviled eggs?

Why did I pack all of this janky, half-burned Gladware? It’s stained with the remembrance of 1,000 chili lunches. Why did I think I would actually reuse it?

Another bag of junk mail and random papers? WTF?

I am desperate to not fall into the adage of “filling the space you have.” I am desperate to get rid of crap we don’t need.

Is a cheese knife really necessary? Will a regular knife not work just as well?

Where does this random unidentifiable plastic object belong? Can it belong in the trash? Is it an essential piece of this house and the house will come tumbling down if I throw it out?

Why do we have multiple packs of Q-Tips?

SERIOUSLY WHY THE FUCK ARE THERE MULTIPLE BAGS OF JUNK MAIL AND BULLSHIT PIECES OF PAPER STORED IN OUR BASEMENT AND CRAWL SPACE?

I’ll get there eventually, Interwebs. Maybe.

 

*Current unpacked box count, as of this typing: 3