I’ve been remiss

Oh, Dear Internet, where does the time go?
I was going to post yesterday, I had it all planned, but then I decided to take a quick nap first. And woke up at midnight.
In addition to having missed my intended blogging, I also missed a friend’s band that was playing in town. Sucksorious. Bad friend alert. . .
On a completely random note, I did get around to doing my fingernails, a couple of nights ago.
not so awesome . . .
Toes are easy – you make a big mess, and then fix it in the shower the next day. Fingernails are stupidly difficult. Especially if you suddenly have to go to the washroom while the polish is drying. . . Wheee. In a few minutes, I will be (for the third time) attempting to fix this mess. At least it’s only three nails this time. I think it’s due to the fact that you never don’t need to be using your hands for something. I’m a genius, right? 
 
Sigh.
And now, for something completely different! Random fact about me, your humble blogger: I eat my apples kinda funny. I always, sometimes consciously and sometimes not, end up with a kind of sine wave in my apple. Look!
wheee! though, it might
be a cosine wave. . .
I never said I wasn’t an enormous nerd 🙂
And now for the more interesting part of this post – I have two (count them, two!) new bakings to share with you in the very near future. I need to go to bed now (because obviously something needs to be fixed in my circadian rhythm), but I’ll leave you with a little taste of what’s to come.
awwww 😦  sad not-quite-strawberries
That’s right – one of these recipes will include strawberries. Though, luckily, the companions of these guys were rather less pathetic.
Quarter teaspoon?? Hah!
And the second recipe uses rather more cinnamon than the original required. Cause I loves me some cinnamon (seriously – I have eaten some straight from the jar, and chewed a stick left over from hot cider. The boyfriend thinks this is crazy, but I don’t see why). In addition to the baked goods, I still need to upload my hike photos to share with you, so that’s three whole new posts coming your way, sometime in the near future! Awesome!!
If you’re paying attention (and what are the odds?), you’ll notice that the quality of the photos still isn’t so stellar. Partly from the fact that it’s hard to take pictures of things your doing while you’re doing them, and partly because camera phones aren’t too amazing. I might have my actual camera back, but with no cable, I can’t share any photos I took. So I opted for convenience over quality. Not that my photos will be much better when I start using the real camera. . .
I have a crazy-busy weekend lined up (yay long weekend!!), so I can’t guarantee exactly when these new posts will be emerging, but I hope to have them all up by the end of the weekend – especially once I’ve found my camera cable in the mire that is the boyfriend’s cave of an apartment. I hope you have a marvelous July long weekend, Dear Internet! I’m certainly looking forward to sleeping in (that is, getting up at 8 instead of 5:30. . . AM. . .), and maybe even having a nice nap in my hammock. If the weather co-operates.

Stupid Mondays. . .

Okay, Dear Internet,  do you have any ideas on how to make Mondays not always suck?
While nothing majorly bad happened today, a serious of unfortunate events (mostly due to oversight/dumbitude on my part – and thanks to the boyfriend for that word. . .) have made my Monday not so awesome. Not that Mondays tend to be particularly amazing, but generally you don’t want to hide under your covers until it’s at least Thursday by the time you get home. Well, for me anyway – I can’t really speak for the bulk of humanity on that one.
First off, I tried another of those tasty cupcakes I made this passed Saturday, but this time I forgot to immediately consume Advil. I’d completely forgotten about the espresso powder that is in this recipe. And coffee products are the one thing (that I’ve come across, so far ) that give me migraines. Luckily the amount of espresso in each cupcake must be very minimal, nonetheless I spent the day fighting a different-than-usual terrible headache, wondering what had caused it. Duh.
Which means that I’m in no shape to go spinning tonight with my friend. Mope. And my phone just reminded me it was time to go to spin class. Thanks, phone. . . This is especially annoying because our schedules are so opposed this week that we won’t be able to meet up until after the long weekend. Which actually means that we won’t have been able to get a spin or body combat class in together for a couple weeks now . . . Oh well.
In addition, I went on a lovely long (over 4 hours) hike with the boyfriend yesterday afternoon – it was the perfect day for hiking, and I took a huge number of photos that I want to share with you, so I took back my camera finally. Completely forgetting that there is a second piece of equipment needed to actually put the images onto my computer. And that piece of equipment is still buried somewhere on the boyfriend’s desk. So no hike photos for you, The Internet. You’ll have to wait.
Nothing much else happened, especially since the headache caused an infernal listlessness that made motivating myself at work rather harder than usual. So my list of recipes-I-need-to-try has increased yet again (damn you, Smitten Kitchen!)
So here’s a picture of puppies I found on the internets. Cause puppies are always the answer.
source: Siberian Husky Dogs Canada

And now I want a puppy.

This Week in Baking, part 2

I also made the chocolate soufflé cupcakes with white chocolate cream for a baseball/birthday party that was supposed to happen this afternoon. But with the crazy (and changeable) weather, people dropping out, etc., it was decided in the end to post-pone the game. 
So now I have a few dozen chocolate soufflé cupcakes sitting around, waiting to be delivered to the birthday boy. . .
But here are some pretty pictures to peruse!
whisking the chocolate
more whisking. . .
creaming the egg yolks and sugar
combining the two
so beautiful. . . sniff!
action shot!
blended
whipping the whites
like, 5 seconds later
and 10 seconds after that. . .
adding the sugar
stiffish peaks
folding in the whites
gentle!
pretty icebergs of whites in a
sea of chocolate goodness
all combined!
filling the paper thingies
messily. . .
baked!!
 
mmmmmm. . .
whipping the white chocolate
mint cream. Also mmmm
I had to try one, with the cream (you spoon a nice amount into the little depression in the top of the cupcakes). . . Veeeeeeeerrrrrrryyyyyy tasty! I definitely recommend this recipe. I also learned that lactose-free whipping cream works exactly the same as regular whipping cream, and tastes just the same. Lactose-Intolerant Dairy-Product Lovers of the World Unite! In rejoicing!
And please, continue to ignore the crappy alignment – this is a template that apparently has no idea of how to deal with the idea of side-by-side photos. . . 
So, Dear Internet, want to try some cupcakes?

This Week, in Baking

Hello, Dear Internet!

I figure I should catch you up on the baking I did this passed week. But I’m stupidly tired (why did I get up at 7 am, again??) and easily distracted. For example: in the time it took me to get this far, I have checked Facebook, uploaded a folder of photos to said website, checked three other websites, and drunk half a beer.

I don’t know how well this will go.

Nevertheless, we must push on, or I’ll have to do this tomorrow morning before my hike. . . Which isn’t going to happen.

__________________________________________
First on my list is the lemon tarts. I adapted the recipe from this evil book:

evil evil book. . . get it here: Amazon
Though they had the odd oversight of not including any lemon zest in their lemon curd. Sacrilege. 
getting my stuff ready
eggs!!!

whisking in the cream
waiting for the water
to simmer. . .

I’ve made lemon curd before, but this recipe was both simple and elegant. Despite the obvious flaw in leaving out the zest (with adds the beautiful floral fragrance of lemons and helps mellow the acid brightness of the juice), this gives you a lovely, silky curd that will lend itself to any curdy applications. Though I really need to work on my kitchen timing, and I forgot to set the water to start simmering until I had finished mixing the ingredients together. . .

so this took forever. . .
But everything ended up working out fine – this is also a very forgiving lemon curd. Bonus! I made my sweet shortcrust and chilled the dough. Then a day later rolled it out and bind baked the mini tart shells.
ready for the fridge
getting ready for baking
And this morning, right before going to help set up for the baby shower these tarts were intended for, I filled the shells with the chilled lemon curd.

makeshift pastry piping bag
piping the shells

all the finished tarts!

And Blogger is being an asshole about uploading photos (thus the funny alignment going on. . .)
In addition to the lemon tarts, I also made mini savory madeleines – with rosemary and Parmesan. 
filling the madeleine molds
baked!

They were very tasty, and it was fun to make madeleines for the first time, even if they were untraditional.

And I, of course, had lots of left over lemon curd and pastry. So . . .

Lemon tart! With chocolate! My sister told me bout using a layer of chocolate on the base of a tart with liquidy fillings to help keep the pastry from getting soggy. And it is a delicious option 🙂

blind baking the
tart shell
adding the chocolate

adding the curds
smoothing it out

Look at the pretty tart:

so pretty!

And I can say, this is very tasty lemon curd.

So there you have it, Dear Internet, the baking I did this week! Oh wait. . . there was something else. . . Next post!

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Exercise. . .

I come from a family, on my mother’s side, of larger women. We’re Eastern European peasants, so you need to be hefty, bulky, and strong with a constitution of something-stupidly-healthy to survive as a farmer’s wife in the pre-industrial world. Too bad I’m an archivist in the 21st century. When I get my own yard I’ll probably grow my own veg, but there’s really no comparison is there?
It really didn’t help that the last two years have been super stressful – completing a Masters degree, trying and invariably failing to find a job (or even an interviewer that had the decency to even call me back after an interview). So I let things go. Near-constant self-inflicted stress does not add up to good things for someone with my genes. A friend of mine gets into a super-stressful situation, she ends up losing 25-30 pounds. Me? I gained around 15 . . . Some things in life just aren’t fair. Also, I had been going to a seriously awesome pilates class (if you’re nearby – GO! Great teacher!!) for the several years before the Year That Shall Not Be Thought Of and I had become really fit and happy with my body, which is sacreligious not easy for women in North America.
And in the last few months (okay. . . since the horriblest Christmas ever. Stupid tax people), I began to notice the toll all this stress had taken on the functioning of my immune system – a brush with probable appendicitis, colds that literally knocked me flat, constant exhaustion, and an unwillingness to take the effort to do anything but read and nap the boring hours away. I was on my way to a serious depression, when including how I’ve been noticing the weight I had regained. . . I’m a walker – I generally walk as much as possible, and luckily I live in a very walkable city. But it wasn’t enough apparently.
But I did find a job – money is nice (not enough, but what can you do?) – and felt I had actual worth again.
And so I started actually using that gym membership again. I swim 2 or three times a week, take spin classes (with two different friends) 2 or 3 times a week, and I’m trying to fit in this killer body combat class they offer. It helps that a friend, who has a membership at the same gym, is back in town for the summer and I have a semi-regular gym buddy. Also, I finally got new hiking boots, so I am hoping to get a good hike in at least once a week 🙂 Hiking in whatever-shoes-I-have-on (including flip-flops once. Not recommended) really wasn’t all that successful.
Here’s the kicker: about two weeks ago,  I started to notice something – I liked it. No, craved it.
When I can’t get to the gym at least every other day, I start to go stir crazy. If I can’t fit at least one swim in every week, I feel funny. I am now, apparently, addicted to the endorphins.
I knew that I had an adrenalin thing (from the singing – more on that later), but this is pretty funny to me. I knew I’d have to start exercising again at some point, but putting it off seemed so much more awesome than actually doing it. I had no real reason to get my ass in gear. I really had no initiative. But I never thought I’d get to this point. Though a bunch of my friends are telling me, in various ways, “I told you so!”
I weighed myself for the first time in a month, and I’ve now lost a total of 10-11 pounds since I started exercising again. And I feel really good about myself again, which is even more important, really.
So I don’t feel too guilty about the ever-growing list of recipes-I-MUST-try. An indulgence here and there won’t be an issue. Cause I have the exercise fever.
See you at the pool!
(source:Wikipedia.org)

Damn you, Smitten Kitchen!!

Okay, so I occasionally kill a little time at work with web surfing. I feel I can get away with it because I work pretty hard and efficiently (and at minimum wage. . .). I still get things done.

Today I was catching up on one of my favourite blogs, Smitten Kitchen, and I then chose to push that damnable ‘surprise me!’ button. . . What comes up? Her article on making Peter Reinhart’s bagels. I don’t see the danger I’m in (I’ve never had any inkling of a desire to make my own bagels, for heaven’s sake), so I read the article.

And now I need to make these bagels. Especially since there’s a option for cinnamon raisin bagels, which I love with an unholy passion.

Why do I do this to myself??

To be fair, these look pretty darn amazing:

mmmmmm. . .

Check out the article: Peter Reinhart’s bagels and dare to tell me you don’t think you need to make them yourself. Or maybe I’m just crazy.

Now all I need to do is find a retailer near me who sells high gluten flour. . .

And it doesn’t end with the bagels, oh no. There are several dozens of other recipes I now need to try: graham crackerschocolate wafers and ice-box cupcakeschocolate soufflé cupcakes with white chocolate mint cream (mmmmmmm. . . this might be the treat I’ll make for my friend’s birthday party), red pepper soupsweet pickled grapes (!!), et cetera, ad nauseum. . .

If you like food, and love making it – definitely check out this blog. Though maybe not at work – you can lose hours perusing the various delectable treats on offer.

A Year (ish) in Baking

The last several months have been filled with baking firsts for me, and I figure that the easiest way to get through it all would be an abridged over-view of the things I happened to take photos of in the last 8 months I mean. . . the accomplishments of the last (almost) year. There will be a similar post in the near future chronicling my exploits in yarn. And I guess I should talk about music at some point too.

Maybe this blog should have been called My Life in Food and Yarn (and Music)

_____________________________________________________________

I’ll go chronologically, since that’s pretty much the easiest way to go.

First, and most spectacularly, is my first attempt at a decorated fondant cake. A friend of mine is a huge fan of Invader Zim (see Wikipedia on Invader Zim if you don’t already know what that is. . .). And another friend of mine saw this cake on the lovely Internets:

And so I just had to make it. . . Which resulted in:
 Finished product!
Piggy!
Partially eaten cake (revealing the crazy innards of GIR’s ‘brain’)
And I also, of course had to elaborate on the original idea. As you can see above, I baked candy (and nuts and bolts, that had been properly sterilized first of course) into the cake of GIR’s head, to simulate the junk used to create him originally (my lovely boyfriend’s idea). Not only did this make the cake a sugar shock special, it was also an asshole to bake (which I will expand upon when I do a post solely devoted to this cake). And GIR’s body was made in red velvet cake, because, why not make something that’s really complicated even more complicated?
Other firsts in the last year include:
  • My first sweet potato pie. Okay, pies. I don’t do things by halves.

  • My first pecan pie. The recipe for which is actually my boyfriend’s mom’s (who happens to have been a chef and restauranteur at various points in her career). I’m not a fan of pecans myself, but it’s one of the boyfriend’s favourites. . .

  • My first totally made up recipe! I generally use other people’s, thinking that if they’ve gone to all the trouble of testing things out, why should I repeat that (very) hard work?? I generally always fiddle with recipes to make them more to my liking. But these apple pies mark the first time I’ve ever said to myself “How hard could this be?” And guess what – it wasn’t all that hard. And they were damn tasty pies, if I do say so myself. I of course forgot to write anything down. But if it wasn’t so hard the last time, how hard could subsequent attempts really be?

  • In all the years I’ve been baking, I have never encountered a double yolk egg. Imagine my surprise when, making a regular batch of chocolate chip cookies, I break one egg to find a double yolker – holy crap! – and then I break the second egg and find that it too is a double?? That was an interesting day. And I have the heightened cholesterol scores to prove it.
In addition to the good days of successful first tries and the attendant adrenalin rush, there are also days where nothing goes right, I feel really crappy, my friends and family have crazy shit going on in their lives, or I feel like a chicken running around with its head cut off. And on those days, I cook and bake the blues away (and share the bounty with those near enough to partake in it). Baking is essentially a comfort food for me. I don’t need to eat what I make, thought it does help a lot to share the spoils. I just need the act of baking, and the worst times just fade to the background.
This particular day, I felt pretty sick and woozy – I have some allergies, one of which is to perfume, and the day before I had gone to the bathroom at work to find that someone before me had decided to reapply her perfume. Using the whole bottle. When the vent fans weren’t working. And didn’t even bother to try and prop open the door.
It was not good. 
So I made some chicken noodle soup, and Toblerone shortbread cookies (which should not be allowed since they are basically crack). I don’t remember much of that day, but I remember the soup was awesome.
Sometimes things don’t always work out too well. . .

I was house-sitting for a friend, and they have a convection oven (!!!). But this was not the most successful batch of chocolate chip cookies. They were still perfectly tasty, but the regular way of making this recipe did not work in the new context. But I have ideas for the next time I might get to use that oven. . .

There are Christmas cookies and all that seasonal baking. From mid-November to late-December, I am a baking fiend. Every night I go to bed with stiff stiff legs from standing all day baking, and running to the grocery store for some last minute/forgotten item. And on top of the baking I do for my own family, I still find time to help others with their holiday baking.

Tourtieres, that I make for a friend of the family
 
Traditional English Christmas cake (my grandmother’s recipe)

I also bake a stupid number of Christmas cookies. You’ll have to wait, Dear Internet, until the next holiday season for pictures, unfortunately. But I usually bake gingerbread, two or three kinds of shortbread (ginger shortbread, as well as traditional at the very least), rugalach, spitzbuben, huzar’s love, mincemeat tarts, (with my own mincemeat recipe), and loz (an almond sweet meat that is a perfect pain in the ass to make, but is very tasty), among others. I also occasionally make truffles. And I’m hopefully going to have time to make rum balls this year (I’ve been researching different recipes for a couple of years now).

I also like to play up my friends’ food preferences. One such person has a love of Toblerone. So I made Toblerone ganache tarts. Who wouldn’t?:

And there’s always leftovers. . . How tragic
I also like playing with gum paste to see what can (and can’t. . .) be done with it. For my boyfriend’s last birthday, a bunch of us devised a Futurama theme (you can go look it up yourself if you seriously don’t know what that is) for the party. And I made little figurines to go with the cake that one of his best friends made.
The gang. There were going to be more. . . but I gave up. This was much harder than I thought it would be. Leela especially was a complete disaster
 
I’m pretty impressed with how Zoidberg turned out though
On my bi-monthly perusal of ThinkGeek, I found these cookie cutters:
Science!

Which I just had to get for Father’s Day (my dad’s an enormous nerd – in fact, he started out his career as a rocket scientist). And so, I made these cookies this passed Saturday:
I bake. . . with SCIENCE
Science is awesome from every angle!

And the damn piping machine (that belonged to my grandmother) was totally impossible to use. So some lines are more artistically squiggly than I would prefer. But I have to give credit where credit is due – the sugar cookie recipe that comes with these cutters turned out to be quite good. And surprisingly, not too sweet (??) either. I don’t generally like sugar cookie dough – it can be a total bastard – but this one was nicer to work with than usual. 

So there are my exploits from the last bunch of months. At least, the ones I recorded for posterity. . .
I think that’s more than enough to be getting on with, don’t you? But how could I forget?? There are lemon tartlets and rosemary-parmesan mini madeleines coming up this week! And a birthday treat for a friend. Though I still have to decide what that will actually be. . . I have time. Ish. 
And on one final note, raspberries are the best food. Even these mutant monsters from California still evoke for me the tart sweetness of fresh local berries, and remind me of the heart of summer for me.
even if they have more size and uniformity than flavour. . .
Happy Summer, Dear Internet!

Billy Bishop Goes to War

One more post today, Dear Internet. (imagine that – my first day and three posts already!! admittedly, none of them focus particularly on either music or food. . .)

As a Father’s Day present, my mom and I took my dad to see Billy Bishop Goes to War at SoulPepper, with John Gray and Eric Peterson.

It was phenomenal.

There are many things I can say I loved about it. I can say it had me in tears a few times. I can say that it is hilarious, poignant, damning, and Canadian. I can say that both Gray and Peterson are phenomenal. And I can say more, but you won’t really get it. If you have the chance, Dear Internet, go see this amazing play.

Movies!

Okay. I’ve seen two really good movies in the last week, and I thought I’d share them (and my reactions to them, of course) with you, The Internet, before I completely forget to do so. . .

Movie #1: Jane Eyre (2011, Cary Fukanaga; with Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender)

Alright, The Internet. You should know I am a huge fan of Jane Eyre (the book). I first read it when I was 12 or 13, when I found an old edition with gorgeous woodcut illustrations in my grandparents’ house (it was in a two-book set with Wuthering Heights, which I am ashamed to say I have not yet read. . . Fie on me). I have looked up to Jane Eyre ever since – to be that innocent and yet that confident? As a painfully shy girl (as well as highly cynical) growing up, that was the pinnacle of awesome. As I grew up, I studied a lot of history, and so learned a lot about the 19th C. and the trials the Bronte sisters must have gone through to 1) be able to write as their profession, 2) be published, and 3) be taken at all seriously as authors. So the Brontes are also high on my list of awesome people. (And check out Kate Beaton’s Hark! A Vagrant! comic on them: http://harkavagrant.com/index.php?id=202 she also is selling a shirt featuring the Brontes that I covet. . . Cause Kate Beaton is just the awesome)

And with the most animated language I can, I must tell you how much I loved this movie. One caveat up front – Michael Fassbender is a bit too gorgeous to be a perfect Mr. Rochester. He’s a great actor, so you occasionally forget how pretty he is, and he does a great job as Mr. Rochester. But still. There’s a reason Charlotte described him the way she did. Just saying.

Now the movie. I won’t spoil anything (there are some interesting choices as to timing that I think work so well that I don’t want to give any specifics), though if you haven’t read the book you are a simpleton and I don’t care for your feelings either way. But, the adaptation from page to screen (especially since this is only 2 hours long) is very cleverly done. You both feel the passage of time, and don’t feel like they’re bogged down in certain details or skipping over too many things. Unlike the recent adaptation of Pride and Prejudice (2005), you don’t feel like there really hasn’t been enough time passing to justify the actions of the principal characters. Well, that’s what I felt, anyway.

And to finish – Mia Wasikowska is amazing in this movie. I was meh about her skills when Alice came out (but then, I am not a big fan of Tim Burton. Ever since Edward Scissorhands, he’s gotten more and more hung up on the aesthetics of his movies and less on any possible depth. And I like his style. He’s just not that good a director. . .). She is breathtaking in this film, and she really gets you to feel what she is feeling, and sympathize deeply with her trials.

So this one gets a full two thumbs up from me – beautifully shot, beautifully acted, beautifully adapted.

Movie #2: Tree of Life (2011, Terrence Malick; with Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, and Jessica Chastain)

Now. I’m lucky enough to live in a town with a Cinematheque, as well as have a boyfriend who is an inveterate movie-lover. My nerdities generally lie elsewhere (though I have become more movie-savvy in the last few years), and I had never seen a Terrence Malick film. For shame, I know. As luck would have it, with the release of Tree of Life this year, my Cinematheque decided to do a Malick retrospective (not too onerous, I know. . .). In the last two weeks, I was able to see all four of his previously released movies. All of which I really loved. Badlands, Days of Heaven, The Thin Red Line, and The New World were all deeply moving and beautiful movies. You can quibble with his story-telling style, but Malick does make beautiful beautiful movies.

So I was really, really looking forward to seeing Tree of Life.

And now that I’ve seen it, I have no idea how I feel about it. The acting was all-round excellent. And Brad Pitt continues to grow and impress as an actor. Jessica Chastain was radiant, and tragic all at once. Sean Penn, while good, didn’t really have enough context for his minimal cameo. The child actors were also, highly surpisingly, very very good. And, like all of his movies, Tree of Life is a Beautiful Movie. I like that Malick, as a film-maker, doesn’t talk down to his audience – he leaves things for us to do as viewers. There are no neatly tied up packages at the end of his movies.

But for Tree of Life, I think I’d have liked a little tiny bit more tying up of loose ends in this one. I just didn’t quite see how it all came together as a cohesive film in the end. I saw how all the disparate elements related to each other perfectly well, I’m just not sure there was just one movie there in the end.

I enjoyed the various bits a lot though, and would definitely recommend this film to any discerning movie-goer. And if you haven’t seen any of Malick’s films before, I’d probably tell you to watch his earlier work before seeing Tree of Life.