Crafty Baking Adventures and Other Things I Do to Distract From my Thesis

28 Jul

So basically… my work right now is a little like that song they always sang on Lambchop. You know what I’m talking about? This one.

Anywho, I’m trying to trudge through and do a bit every day. While not trudging through that process, I’ve also gotten a little crafty and bakingish in order to feel better about procrastination. For example…

Aimee sent me the most awesome gift for my birthday.

BAM!

I was already trying to pick the most perfect present, but I could not find something on the same level of perfect giftyness, so I thought I would try to make something. Aimee is an awesome cook and has many excellent aprons, but I figured that she did not have a feminist themed one! My favorite baking blogger, Bakingdom, also makes aprons. She’s made a Harry Potter apron and a Tardis apron, and she was super awesome about sending me the pattern for the skirting at the bottom. I had this vision of an apron themed after the Feminist Majority Foundation‘s awesome This Is What A Feminist Looks Like shirts and things. As happens with crafts, my original vision did not end up being the finished project, but I’m pretty satisfied.

If you are ever jonesin to make an apron, you are more than welcome to use a pattern and do it all legit style, but if you are like me and don’t even know how to unfold a pattern… you can always just take an apron you already have and use that as a starting point. I am staying with people who have lots of aprons, so I went through a period of trying and seeing which parts fit the way I’d like the apron to fit.

A lot of the work was just making it up as I went. I had to take a picture of the skirt pattern, info about what the measurements were, and make a new pattern to scale. I measured the small side of the skirting to see how long the bottom of the apron should be, and then I used a paper bag (see how completely ridiculous my methods are?) and cut it to find the right curve for the bottom of the apron that would fit the skirt pattern.

I laid my ragtag pattern on top of the pink fabric and cut it out around the edges. I took a page out of Bakingdom’s book and used bias tape instead of trying to hem the thing, because basting and hemming makes me want to use my shins as pincushions. Just saying. So, I lined the edges of the apron with black bias tape and sewed it together.

Making apron strings from fabric has an effect similar to the basting and hemming on my state of stress filled zen, so I chose to use a thick grosgrain ribbon for the waist strings and a thinner grosgrain for the neck string. Easy peasy!

The skirt was a little more difficult, but I cut it out of the black fabric and lined the bottom with pink bias tape. I wanted the apron to be as bomb as possible, so I also opted for black sparkly tulle on top of the skirt. I also used bias tape to get the tulle and the skirt together and, again, avoid hemming. It was a little rough, and some of the edges were a little wonky, but in the end I felt pretty good about it. 

When I attached the skirt to the apron, I realized I had made the apron far too long. These things happen when you’re piecing it together like a puzzle. Anywho, you can always take away. I just pinned the skirt to the existing apron and tried it out until I found the right length. I sewed them together first so I could, you guessed it, avoid hemming the bottom. It worked out fine.

I wanted to add pockets, which was the easiest part of this process. I used the bias tape again and sewed them together using pink thread, because I like the hand-sewn look when you can see the thread. It’s like a little accent! Awesome.

My original plan was to somehow paint “This is what a feminist looks like,” using the Feminist Majority Foundation t-shirts as a template. Hahaha. Fast forward to me, covered in spray fabric paint, and awfully frustrated. Take two!

I like free hand embroidering. And it’s not fancy embroidery, I’m talking like straight lines and simple outlines. So, I took some of the extra black fabric and used pink string to sew “This is what a feminist looks like” on it. I actually hemmed this bit, mainly because it was just a square and a very small one, at that. 

And that was the end! Ta-da! 

And then… I started listening to Trock, which is short for Time Lord Rock (yes, I’m that cool) and Comic Con geeking out about Doctor Who. I have this side purse thing. You know, the kind that goes across your chest and hangs out on your hip, but is small so it isn’t in your way? I like it, but it doesn’t really go with some of my outfits, if you know what I’m saying. So! I took some of the extra fabric from the apron and made a really basic bag with a TARDIS on it! A very simple TARDIS, but a TARDIS nonetheless. 

I have also been doing some baking fun. I made a checkerboard cake, which is a variation of the vertical layer cake from Bakingdom. I fully intended to make vertical layers, but one of the yellow cakes broke, so then I had to make new plans.

It’s late and I’m super sleepy, so I’m going to be lazy and just point you in the direction of other people’s instructions that I followed to bake this cake.

I got the process from Bakingdom here, along with the recipe for the yellow cake. After having made the cake, I think that all vertical layer cakes should use that kind of cake for a base. It cuts easily, it is firm enough to move around with your hands, and it is just fabulously delicious. Seriously. Awesome. But I’m pretty pos that with patience, sharp knives, and extra icing on hand just in case, you can turn any cake into a vertical layer cake. Fo sho. I wanted to do a chocolate cake, so I used Aimee’s favorite, which is this one. It is totally delicious and perfect, but it is so moist and a little crumbly, so it’s harder to cut.

Basically, what you do is bake your cakes (and if you want to make a two layer high cake you need to bake two batches, or four separate pans of cake) and then level them off. Trick I learned from this tutorial: if you level the cakes really soon, no more than five minutes, after pulling them out of the oven, set them on top of each other (each double, not all four) and throw them in the freezer, it helps them stick together instead of being little cake cubes. Anywho, you bake them, and then you put the two layers of each kind on top of each other. (Bakingdom has a good in depth explanation with pictures.) Then, using a template or cutouts or bowls or what have you, you cut the layers into the cake. You make a little cut on one side of the rings, so you can wrap them around each other, and then you do just that. Then, frost! The frosting is kind of hard, because the cake comes off easily since you trimmed it and stuff. Woohoo! Here is my finished cake. I am pretty proud of my first attempt.

Annnnd on that note, I’m going to hit the sack! Early morning tomorrow, lots to do and stuff!

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We are wizards, and our hearts are filled with hope!

15 Jul

“Harry Potter is about confronting fears, finding inner strength, and doing what is right in the face of adversity. Twilight is about how important it is to have a boyfriend” – Stephen King

I realize that I could have gone with a direct quote from the books for both the title (from a Harry and the Potters song) and the quote above (which I totally stole from my friend’s status), but I feel like this choice kind of sums up how I’ve been feeling as this day has been approaching. I already know the way it’s going to end, but I still don’t want it to. Today is a day to be sentimental, and I’ve seen it coming for months.

I can’t remember a time when Harry Potter wasn’t in my life. I didn’t start reading the books when they first came out in 1997, but by the time I was in middle school (around 1999) I was hooked. I remember the agony of waiting for each book to come out, the rush to put my name on the list for books the day they came out at the local Borders, and a state of feverish, urgent ecstasy as I tore through each one. I also felt an awareness, especially as the books started to get darker, that each book was one closer to the end.

Harry Potter wasn’t just a book to me. Most of the fans out there probably feel the same. When I was younger I had a terrible time falling asleep. I couldn’t stop my mind from going places I didn’t want it to go, and falling asleep was a very anxious time for me. Then, my parents bought me Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone on tape. I fell asleep every night listening to Harry’s adventure. I can quote many of the scenes from that book line for line. When we went on vacations, Harry came with me in my walkman. I kept it by my bed all the time. I eventually branched out to the second and third books. I didn’t just use them to fall asleep anymore. I would listen to Harry defeat the basilisk and save Sirius Black doing household chores or just sitting around in my room.

I was headed to Girl Scout Camp when the fourth book came out. I wasn’t the only camper distracted by the Triwizard Tournament when I was supposed to be learning the sign language to “Eternal Flame.” I have a very vivid memory of reading Dumbledore’s speech at the end of The Goblet of Fire. I can see the words on the page, and I remember tearing up about what seemed so unfair. I was so happy in the fifth book, because I though Harry would finally be able to live with Sirius and have a real family. When Sirius died, I was devastated for Harry Potter. I was impressed with Ginny’s advances as a kickass witch and Quidditch player, and I was ready for Ron and Hermione to JUST GET TOGETHER ALREADY.

The first time J.K. Rowling broke my heart was when she killed Dumbledore. I was seventeen when The Half Blood Prince came out. My mother was sitting downstairs and I was upstairs in my room, like the teenager I was, tearing through the agonizing scene with Harry and Dumbledore as they tried to retrieve the Horcrux. When Dumbledore’s spell on Harry was broken, and I realized that Dumbledore was dead, I was in total shock. I turned the pages back, thinking I had to have missed something, because there was no way that Dumbledore could ever die. I could not even find solace in the great Headmaster’s words from the first book (“To the well organized mind, death is but the next great adventure”). I ran down the stairs and stood in front of my mom as the tears rolled down my face. “What is it?” she asked, afraid that something had happened. “Dumbledore,” I sobbed, “died!” After she realized that I was in no physical pain or danger, she let me sit on her tiny, petite, 5’1″ lap and cry.

Do you remember all of the discussions that took place between the sixth book and the release of The Deathly Hallows? Everyone had a theory. Would Harry die, or would he live? What would happen to Neville, the other possibility for the prophecy? Was Harry a Horcrux? Why was he being such an ass to Ginny, didn’t he realize she could take care of her own damn self? (OK, maybe that last one was just me. Did I mention that I’m currently dressed in my Ginny Weasley costume and waiting for my friend to get home so we can leave for the movie already?)

Well, I thought I had it all figured out. In my slightly tragic version of The Deathly Hallows, Ron, Harry, and Hermione find the first six horcruxes and realize that Harry is the seventh. Harry goes out with his friends to the final battle and knows that he has to die so that the others can finally kill Voldemort. Voldemort kills Harry, and then Neville takes his place as the other Chosen One and vanquishes Voldemort for good. Everyone is sad, but Ron and Hermione lead the rebuilding of the wizarding world, with the help of all of our other wizarding friends. Also, in my version, Malfoy has a change of heart and joins Dumbledore’s Army in the end.

Obviously, J.K. and I had different visions.

If you’ve read the books, you know how it ends. And, if you haven’t, STOP READING THIS AND GET THEE TO A LIBRARY! You could also go to my mom’s house. My Harry Potter books are there until I find a more permanent home. Anywho, stop reading, now, because Harry Potter is a zillion times better than this. That’s right, I said a zillion.

Back to the seventh book. I was staying with a friend for a week in Plano, TX when The Deathly Hallows came out. We’d been invited to a super cool eighties themed party, complete with booze, on the same night as the midnight book release. So, of course, we went to the party. And then we left at 11:30.

There we were, some of the oldest people at the midnight release, dressed in eighties clothes and slightly tipsy. Everyone in the entire store was counting down to midnight. I felt my pulse starting to race as it got closer, and as the countdown started the excitement took total control. Anastasia and I screamed with all the children and preteens when they started handing out the books, and we really didn’t stop screaming until we got to the family mini-van. We did not want anyone coming by and ruining the book for us, like happened with The Half Blood Prince. Do you remember that? It was like the big thing was, if you weren’t a Harry Potter fan and were, therefore, pissed because you weren’t in on the biggest and best secret ever, you would run around telling everyone SNAPE KILLS DUMBLEDORE.

Isn’t it strange to think that someone telling the ending of a book to a line of young people would cause international outrage? Young people getting angry because someone spoiled the ending… of a book.

That’s Harry Potter though, isn’t it? When the seventh book came out, I couldn’t imagine what life would be like when there was no more Harry Potter to look forward to. The hypothesizing, the rereading, the yearning, it was part and parcel of my life (and that of every other Potter fan). I have a feeling that’s why the first part of the seventh movie didn’t do as well as people expected. The other movies happened in time with the book craze, and everyone was used to waiting for Harry Potter. I think some people stopped waiting. But, a lot of us never did. Like the seventh book, the seventh movie was for us. Who can put it better than J.K. herself? “…and to you, if you have stuck with Harry to the very end.”

After my friend and I ran, screaming, to the car, we attempted to start the book on the way home as I read the first page aloud from the passenger seat. This wasn’t nearly magical enough for either of us, so we waited until we got home. Harry Potter was serious business. Three people in the house were reading The Deathly Hallows at the same time, so we had to set some ground rules. I remember one was, “No reading after 2 AM.” We figured we should at least try to sleep. We sat in the living room, the three of us, and read in silence for hours. Every so often, someone would start crying, so we had multiple boxes of kleenex on hand. A friend was having a party in Austin, I don’t remember what for, but we went. I sat in the backseat of the van and read all the way. I had taken off my seatbelt (completely unsafe never ever do this) in order to get into the optimal position for reading, when we hit traffic and I flew, The Deathly Hallows in hand, onto the floor of the van. When we finally got to the party it was business as usual, except that one room in the apartment had been designated the Harry Potter Reading Room. Stepping in was like entering another apartment all together. On one side of the door, there was loud music, alcohol, and dancing. On the other, young college sophomores occupying every available surface and reading together in silence.

[Note: Between paragraph above and the paragraph below, my friend got home and we went to the movie. Carrying on…]

Harry Potter is really important to me. As you can see, it’s played a formative role in my life. It’s played an important role for my entire generation. Sometimes, I feel like we have our own international version of “Where were you when Kennedy was shot?”: “What did you do when Dumbledore died?”

Everyone has a story, most people have many. I am a rather sentimental person in general, and when it comes to Harry Potter, I am especially so. I wanted the last two movies to be some kind of perfect. So much of myself is all tangled up with Harry Potter. I needed the last two movies to be epic, because I wanted them, somehow, to mean something. I went to see the first part of The Deathly Hallows with someone who had never read the books and had only seen three of the movies. I spent half of the time preparing myself for Dobby’s death and the other half of the time distracted by my date’s obvious disinterest. I felt like some kind of bubble had popped. Harry Potter was supposed to be special. Why wasn’t it special?

I approached the movie tonight with a mixture of emotions all bubbling up inside of me and trying to get out and express themselves. When the movie started, I could feel my pulse starting to race. I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to get into the story, but I shouldn’t have ever worried. Seeing Harry Potter at midnight is like seeing a movie with one hundred friends. You know that no one will be stupid and ruin the movie, because everyone is just as much of a Potter fan as you. I got completely carried away by the movie tonight. Everything was perfect.

Of course, it wasn’t the book. The movies never are. But, it was Harry Potter. It was Harry, Hermione, Ron, Neville, Luna, and Ginny. It was also Fred, Tonks, and Lupin. It was “not my daughter, you bitch!” It was McGonagal kicking all kinds of ass, and it was Snape. I cried, of course, but not because anything was ending. As I left the theater, I heard someone say, “I don’t want to leave! Then, it will be over!” That is how I expected to feel, too. Instead, I just felt so satisfied. Harry Potter is bigger than one stinkin movie. Plus, I fully intend to see it again, and then to shelve my boxed set next to my old, ragged, dogeared books. If I have children, and one of them asks for a bedtime story, I will tell them about a little boy who lived in a broom closet under the stairs and teach them, too, that just because something happens in your head doesn’t make it any less real.

After all, Harry Potter and all of the other wonderful characters J.K. Rowling brought to life won’t ever leave us. To end, I’ll paraphrase Neville Longbottom, unsung badass hero. They are in our hearts. Always.

“When you put your hand to the plow, you can’t put it down until you get to the end of the row.”

5 Jul

Hello! Happy 4th of July! I’m sure many of you are celebrating with friends, family, and food. Possibly also fireworks. (Fourth of July alliteration, you dig?) My celebration started last night, when MFS and I baked what we planned to be red, white, and blue kolaches. Then, we decided they would be much more delicious if we cooked the strawberries and blueberries and mixed them with cream cheese filling. We now have pink, white, and purple kolaches instead. I am not complaining. They are still delicious! To begin our independence day, we ate the kolaches along with some freshly battered and fried cheese curds and sweet onions. Then, we took it downstairs to the basement TV room to watch a couple of our favorite movies about America n stuff.

First up, 1776, the 1972 movie version with Mr. Feeny as John Adams. I have so many wonderful memories of this movie starting back in fifth grade, when my teacher, Mrs. Barbee, showed it in class. From then on out, whenever my good behavior resulted in getting to eat lunch in the classroom instead of the cafeteria, I would also ask to watch 1776 while hanging out with my other goody two shoes nerdy friends. There are countless awesome moments in the film, and I actually love all of the music, but the song that always strikes me the most is the one that is sung by the army messenger after he brings yet another dreary dispatch from George Washington. It’s called “Mama, Look Sharp.” For some reason wordpress is refusing to put it into this post, so if you want to see it, just click this link.

I especially enjoyed the multiple references to New Jersey and the specific references to New Brunswick, like this one:

John Adams: Wake up, Franklin, you’re going to New Brunswick!

Benjamin Franklin: Like hell I am, what for?

I don’t want to get all nationalistic or anything, but there is something really excellent about a musical that is solely dedicated to the process of declaring independence in the Constitutional Congress.

Then, we moved from watching a movie about a white dudes’ revolution, where slavery is a divisive issue but women’s rights aren’t even mentioned, much less addressed, to the fantastic Iron Jawed Angels. I remember the first time I watched this film. I didn’t see it until I was in college. I happened upon it by accident while browsing at Vulcan Video, and I just remember sobbing uncontrollably through almost the entire film. One excellent scene is their interpretation of an actual march for women’s suffrage that took place in 1913. Check it out.

I bring this up, because I know what the fourth of July can be like. We like to talk in terms of American exceptionalism and to celebrate our founding fathers. We like to have parties and watch fireworks, and to celebrate our country. I understand that desire. After watching 1776, I was feeling pretty damn patriotic. But, here’s the thing. In both my research for my thesis and in the news about the upcoming election cycle, I am noticing a frightening trend of attributing some sort of demi-god status to our founding fathers and to the documents they created. As a friend pointed out in his facebook status today, we’re celebrating that “a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic white men didn’t want to pay their taxes.” Of course, it’s a lot more complicated than that. Not all of the delegates to the Constitutional Congress had slaves, though they were all white, propertied men. Taxation without representation was an issue, but it wasn’t the only one. Also, the deal wasn’t exactly that they didn’t want to pay their taxes, but that they did not want to pay unjust taxes to a tyrannical crown that refused the colonists their rights. I have a lot of issues with the growing chorus of founding fathers idolization, like, as my friend pointed out in his status, the complete refusal to acknowledge the privilege and prejudices of those delegates. But, mainly, I do not like the idea that somehow, those people knew better what to do for our country than we do now. Doing this is similar to what a pastor at a Baptist church here in Madison did last Sunday in his sermon about the importance of rest. Don’t get me wrong, I love it when people say that it is O.K. to take naps. I love naps! The part of the message I had an issue with was when the pastor implied that the world is “finished,” as he did when he quoted the final words of Jesus (“It is finished.”). This pastor was trying to say that we shouldn’t be so stressed out about everything, because Jesus and God have totally got this. Do you see the similarities between that guy’s message and the message of politicians who constantly try to go to the intentions of the founding fathers for the basis of their conservative political arguments? The two time periods sure do have a lot in common: slavery, the oppression of women, etc, etc. I completely disagree with these interpretations. There is a lot to do, and we are the only ones who are going to do it.

If Alice Paul, Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, and all of the other countless suffragettes had believed this rhetoric of the infallibility of the founding fathers and the founding documents, women would not have the right to vote in this country. If the abolitionists, many of whom were also in the suffrage movement, had granted the founding fathers demi-god status, the mere argument that some of them owned slaves would have stopped the movement in its tracks. Governments, as well as political movements, are created by people, and people are fallible. Without an open mind to change, equality will always be a pipe dream.

So, this fourth of July, I’m thinking about the revolutionary and rebellious character of many American heroes. I’m also thinking about the way certain stories are silenced, and many heroes are kept from history textbooks to preserve a nationalist, exceptionalist American narrative. I am thinking about the danger of idolizing our predecessors, whether they are old white dudes in the 1770’s or young suffragettes in the 1920’s. Consider the courage it takes to recognize an injustice and then do something about it. The Declaration of Independence, with all of the issues of race, class, gender, and privilege surrounding it, is still a document that declares that people have the right to push back against tyrannical and unjust government. The nineteenth amendment is about the belief in equality for all people, a belief that is outlined in that very Declaration we celebrate today.

Today, I am thinking about how I’ve felt since January. I am thinking about feeling as if I am caught in the undertow of a political movement that does not represent me, and that I don’t understand. I am thinking about the sense of a loss of control, a growing awareness of corporate influence in legislation, and a sense of complete and utter horror at the seemingly insurmountable attack on women’s reproductive rights in this country. And then, I am reminded that democracy is hard won and it is not always easy. So, this fourth of July, I hope that you consider your involvement in the ongoing project that is America. I hope you remember how many rebellious people stood up to fight against inequality, and I hope you realized that, as the quote goes, citizenship is not a spectator sport. There are very large and very powerful political forces in this country, but I do honestly believe in the possibility of change. So, today, I celebrate our revolutionary history as a nation, and I raise my celebratory alcoholic beverage in a toast to the hope of what could still be.

Happy fourth from Wisconsin!

Cupcakes A la Aimee

3 Jul

I keep attempting to blog about being in Wisconsin, but there is so much going on (that isn’t my thesis) that I am constantly sidetracked. However. Today was an epic day, and so it deserves a blog post.

We have been quite busy, from seeing Bridesmaids again for my birthday to going to a Burlesque show. Recently, we had a brat off at the house. I don’t think we will ever finish eating those brats. Oh my goodness.

Last night we were all out until about one in the A.M., and we had to wake up this morning in time to get to the Farmers’ Market by 7:30. Let’s just say, that was rough. Nothing a little spicy cheese bread and iced tea for breakfast couldn’t fix.

And then, MFS and I embarked on a baking adventure! Well, they’re cupcakes, but they are awesome.

A few days ago, MFS, the adopted parents and I were out at Concerts on the Square when a little birdy (a text message) brought me a picture from cupcakes that looked absolutely divine. When The Maple, the mastermind behind the cupcake goodness, explained that they were white cupcakes with lime curd and blueberry buttercream, I decided I had to have some.

The recipe is kind of made up, according to The Maple, so she had to type them up and send them my way before we could get started, and then, of course, the MFS and I got quite sidetracked by life. We had to declare a day cupcake day, and this is how we came to bake cupcakes on this lovely (hot and humid) Saturday in sunny Wisconsin.

I was informed by a reader that she enjoyed my attempt at a baking blog, so I’m going to give that a go again.

The Tale of the Epic Cupcake

The lime curd has to be cold when you finally put the cupcakes together, so we did that this afternoon shortly after buying our limes and blueberries.

The curd needs 2/3 c lime juice, so we juiced six limes.

Limes n such

You will need 1 t of grated lime zest, so you ought to zest that sucker before you’ve squeezed them all.

Look at that zesty lime!

It’s nice to work in a team, because as I was juicing the limes (which takes a bit of elbow grease), MFS was hard at work across the kitchen. First, she cracked open and separated the eggs, 2 whole eggs and 2 extra egg yolks.

Eggs n such

MFS then got to creaming 1 c sugar with 6 T softened salted butter.

MFS is pretty much awesome

Then, you add the 2 eggs and the 2 yolks, and then the lime juice. The Maple’s exact recipe words were: “It will look disgusting at this point; do not panic.”

Yeah, it looks a little lumpy.

Then, we put it in a small pan and cooked it at a medium-low heat. It started out looking like this:

Once you get started cooking, it starts to get smooth:

Smooth like butta. Probably because there's so much in it.

Then, after about 15-20 minutes, it gets thick and turns a more yellow color.

Look how yummy! Don't eat, it's super hot.

Then, you mix in the zest, put it in a bowl to cool, and cover with plastic wrap. You should “press the plastic wrap to the surface” and stick it in the fridge for a bit. You’ll need a couple hours.

When you’re ready to get down to cupcake business (to defeat the hun…gers?), be aware that this recipe is slightly more intense than other white cake recipes… but it’s worth it! First, as per usual, preheat your oven. In this case, to 350. First, you will cream 1 and 1/2 c sugar with 2/3 c softened salted butter, as MFS is doing in the picture below:

MFS rocks at creaming things

While she was busy at that, I set out all the other ingredients.

2 c flour, 2 egg yolks with 1 t vanilla, 2 t baking powder, 1 t salt, 1 c milk (also pictured:sugar. by this point you should already have used that.)

Put the vanilla in the yolks, and put the egg whites in a glass bowl (not plastic!). Put the yolk and vanilla into the creamed butter and sugar.

Look at them yolks, all up in the creamy, sugary butter.

Mix the remaining dry ingredients (flour, salt, and baking powder) together, and then add the milk and the dry mixture to the yolk/butter/vanilla/sugar mixture a little bit at a time.

Lookin pretty fly

Then, grab the egg whites and your handy dandy mixer. Beat them until they have stiff peaks, which means that when you pull the mixer out, the tips stay up and don’t droop over. Fold that into the other mixture. Now you are ready!

Ice cream scooping the batter into the cups, Bridesmaids style

Throw the cupcakes in the oven that you already preheated to 350, because you are brilliant. They should take about 20 minutes to bake.

Now it is time to start the icing. This is actually really simple, despite the fact that it sounds all fancy. First, you take 1 c of fresh blueberries and put it in a small saucepan.

Look at those yummy berries. Mmmm-Hmmm

Cook over medium heat until the berries start popping. Use a wooden spoon and smash them against the side of the pan. Once it looks kind of like a sauce, but is also a little chunky, take it off the heat.

That is delicious. Don't believe me? Lick the spoon.

Set that aside. We put ours in a ceramic bowl so it would cool. Once they are “mostly cool but still a little warm,” mix them in the butter and the vanilla. Then, take a bag of powdered sugar and mix in a little bit at a time until it is firm and icing-like, but stirrable. You don’t have to use a mixer, but we did.

Standing mixers. Love.

Now you get to hang out until the curd is cold and the icing and cupcakes are room temperature. Next, take a really sharp knife and cut little cones out of each cupcake on the top.

We found that you shouldn't worry about them being too small, because the lime curd is so rich.

Fill the cupcakes with lime curd, we just used spoons to do this part. Don’t worry if it’s kind of overflowing. You will have lime curd left over, and that is so yummy!

Now the icing! We lucked out, and the adopted parents have every kitchen utensil ever, so we got to use a pastry bag with a fancy tip. Usually, I just use a ziploc bag and cut the corner off. You have to use some sort of piping, because of the curd.

MFS is a pro.

Apply the icing however you like, and then use the extra blueberries for garnish. Ta-da! You are done!

Aren't they pretty? And they are also delicious.

And that was my baking adventure today! You should try them! They are fantastic.

 

 

Father’s Day n Stuff

19 Jun

It is father’s day! I am spending it in Wisconsin with my friend and her father, and I’m pretty sure that plan involves waffles. Sweet!

I think that days like Father’s Day are cool, but exclusive. I know quite a few people who are playing/have played really important roles in children’s lives. I’m sure Father’s Day was invented to sell cards, or something like that, but in my head it’s always been about celebrating those people in your life who, whatever gender they feel and whether or not they donated a sperm to your existence, played an important, loving, and supportive role in your life. I think there should just be two Parents’ Days. I think it could work. You’d have to buy twice as many cards, and no one would get left out based on socially assigned concepts of gender. Everybody wins!

But, if we’re going about this the traditional way, then I have to take this second to talk about the sheer levels of awesome my life sometimes hits. Not only did the guy whose sperm made half of my little fetus self turn out to be an awesome, supportive, loving father, but I also lucked out and got a stepfather who totally loves me and all of my progressive feminist ways, even though he doesn’t technically have to. His oldest child, Carrie, is about ten years older than me, so he saved me from a lot of punishment as a teenager by telling my mom that I really wasn’t that bad, in his experience.

Not only do I have two awesome fathers, I grew up with three grandfathers: Granddad, Papaw, and Grandpa Donaho. My papaw is rather brilliant, though he’s been retired for as long as I can remember. He’s the silent type, except when it comes to gases leaving the body. My Grandpa Donaho is my biological grandfather, my dad’s father, but we didn’t see much of each other while I was growing up, because sometimes fatherly relations are complicated. He also lives in that scary part of East Texas where people you’re related to say really sexist/misogynist/racist things when you’re least prepared for it, so we don’t see him much. My Grandad is my dad’s adopted father, and he is the reason I have such a bomb ass name. I didn’t know him all too well, and he died about a week before I graduated. His memorial service was on the same day as my high school graduation. It was weird, I’ve learned so much more about him since he died than I ever did when he was alive, and it seems like he was pretty cool, too.

Not everyone will agree with me, but I think that parenthood is really just about love and support, because if you give a kid enough of those things, you’ll already be leading by example. Everybody has issues. (For example, I sent my dad a copy of When Atheism Becomes Religion for Father’s Day. It’s a really subtle message, I know.) That’s because, unlike the way they appear when you are a small developing child person, your parents aren’t actually superhuman. They’re just people, who decided to adopt/foster/birth/love you, and gave it the best go they could. I think I turned out all right, if a tad morally self-righteous, and so I raise a glass of milk (it is the morning) to all the fathers out there. Happy father’s day!

 

-Me

Life Post-Rapture

21 May

The internets have been all a-twitter with the news of the upcoming rapture, and by golly it is here! Today is the day! Sell your possessions! Quit your job! Donate all of your money to charity (or broke graduate students… hint, hint). Make sure you find your pet a new home, and say a little prayer for all the blasphemers out there who doubted that the day had come.

In all seriousness, this rapture has been everywhere! From New York City subways to Madison Wisconsin, the believers in the rapture have been working really hard to make sure everyone knows it’s coming. I appreciate that, I like to have a little forwarning when the shiznat is about to hit the fan of revelation. I’ve also been enjoying the advice of Best Roof Talk Ever as they count down the days to the rapture and help me understand what it coming.

In these wee small hours of the rapture morning, a friend asked me what I planned to do when I was left behind without my family. I had a few responses that I didn’t even realize existed, and they gave me pause.

1. I wouldn’t actually be alone, because most of my friends and a good chunk of my family would be here, too, so it wouldn’t be so bad. Plus, I’d pretty much know my grandmother was in heaven, instead of trying to sleep on a painful hip. That seems like a pretty big improvement. Although it would be too bad that my great aunt just spent all that money getting lasik, not that it would matter, once she was with Jesus.

2. I would open my bakery. My three co-founders consist of an atheist, a pagan methodist and her husband, so I’m pretty sure we’ll all still be around and maybe we can luck out and inherit the money to start a new business from a distant relative, or something. Plus, with all the people gone, the unemployment rate is bound to drop since there will be so many job openings. Hell, the rapture may just be the answer to the recession. The newly revived job market will be the perfect environment to start Mo’ Butter Less Problems, our bakery where every treat is named after a literary character. Some months will even have themes! July will be Harry Potter, and October reserved for vampires (but not, obviously, those stupid twilight books). If you’re still around after the rapture, you should look us up in about six months. That’s Mo’ Butter, Less Problems. Perhaps our tagline could be “Making Life After Rapture Sweet!” or, “Life after the rapture sure tastes sweet!” I see plenty of possibilities.

3. Revel in the new political, social, and spiritual American landscape. I try to imagine the country without right-wing Christian tea-party-ers, evangelicals, and political conservatives, and a tear of happiness springs to my eye. I would start community organizing to make sure Texas went back to being blue, now that the Bible belt was rid of a majority of its residents. I would encourage multiple parties to bring more diversity into local, state, and national elections, now that the people who kept trampling all OVER my rights were happily situated with Jesus. I would start compiling a list for Barack Obama, who I’m pretty sure would still be hanging out, full of suggestions for nominations to the newly-opened seats on the Supreme Court. All of my suggestions, of course, would be progressive, pro-choice nominees. I would be a part of a wave of taking back our reproductive freedoms, as states like South Dakota and Mississippi increased the number of clinics offering family planning and abortion services to a number able to serve the entire state community without causing undue hardship on any population within their borders. I would encourage young women to take over the property space of Crisis Pregnancy Centers in their neighborhoods and turn them into environments for positive conversations about being a young woman in this new American society, and I would tell them explicitly that the future was, actually, theirs to shape.

I know that this rapture is a really fringe kind of thing, and so most of the things I talk about here are pretty ridiculous to base on this one seriously unfounded marginal idea. But the thing that really struck me was how big my dreams kept getting when I thought about what could be. A professor once told me that there can be no change if we aren’t brave enough to envision the kind of future we want for whatever cause it is we’re currently fighting for. It’s strange, but the rapture has allowed me to start to envision the kind of world I want for myself, my family, and my friends, and I hope I can carry that kind of strength in vision and optimism forward into the far harsher reality of our current situation in the country and around the world.

And I just wonder… what would you do?

-me

Black and Whites, or, Why I Should Stick to Pie

17 May

Hello, lovely readers!

I have recently discovered the joys of reading baking blogs. I love reading about all of these delicious things and fancy baked goods that all the talented bloggers out there come up with. Though I have found quite a few that I enjoy (Bake It In A Cake, Angerburger , and Sugar Derby, for example) my favorite by far is Bakingdom. Full disclosure: I love this site because it is not only full of delicious treats but also fun crafts! Did I mention the blogger, Darla, is a big Harry Potter and Doctor Who fan? I know. Amazing! Plus, when I emailed her with a question about the aprons she makes (and they are fabulous), she actually emailed me back. Twice! And she emailed me a pattern! I fully intend to have my very own harry potter apron by the time the Deathly Hallows Part 2 comes out. Hell yes.

Anywho, in this little slice of summer I’ve carved out for myself here in Texas, I have been doing absolutely nothing since finishing my research design and thesis proposal. I’m still waiting to hear back from my chair and readers, and until then I see no reason to get started. Plus, who wants to start working on research when there is family around and tex mex to be had? Certainly not this feminist.

So, this last week and a half has consisted almost entirely of down time, and that down time has included devouring all ten of the Southern Vampire Mysteries (the books that True Blood is based on), starting Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States, and trying my hand at some new-to-me recipes.

First, I made flour tortillas a la Zac. They turned out great, and they were so easy! If you want the recipe, just drop me a line. Perhaps I’ll do another blog about them later, because they actually came out well. Then, I made green beans a la Aimee. It was my first try at making a dish that has become one of my absolute favorites, so even though my mom and my step-dad say they were yummy, I still think I have a long way to go to get them just right. Finally, I gave in and decided to stop drooling over all of the gorgeous pictures and delicious recipes on Bakingdom and actually give one a whirl!

I chose to try out the recipe for Black and Whites, because no one here was familiar with them. It’s like the reverse of what I’ve been experiencing in New Jersey about most awesome foods (Blue Bell ice cream, Shiner beer, and queso, to name a few). It seemed pretty straightforward, and we had all of the ingredients except cake flour, so i figured I’d just forge on with all-purpose and try it out.

I had an excellent time experimenting with a family friend’s standing mixer, but because I was working in a kitchen in the middle of a group of people trying to talk, I don’t think I mixed the butter and sugar long enough, nor the egg, and I certainly overdid the mixing once adding in the flour mixture, but I had no idea about any of this as I spooned the batter onto parchment paper using an ice cream scoop.

The batter, on its way to becoming cookies

I dropped these onto the parchment paper, and everything looked (and tasted, because I cannot resist cookie dough of almost any kind) right, so I forged ahead.

All the little mounds of dough, ready for the oven

While they were cooking, I checked to see if their progress matched all of the awesome pictures from Bakingdom, which you can look at by clicking on the link listed up there somewhere.

Can you tell they're on the way from poofing to flattening?

I absolutely love the intense amount of step by step documentation that so many baking blogs give you, especially Bakingdom. These pictures should not be of any help to anyone, I just thought it would be fun to pretend that I was as good at this as the baking bloggers I love to read and that I could show you the kind of fun, finished product process that I so enjoy reading about. Hahaha. False.

I love black and whites because they are soft and cakelike in consistency, citrus-y in flavor, and covered in shiny but delicious vanilla and chocolate icing. The only part of the process that I stand by is my vanilla icing, which came out perfectly.

All iced up and nowhere to go... because I'd never take these out in public.

You can see that the white part is glossy and shiny. I have absolutely no idea what went wrong with the chocolate side, as its just the white plus melted unsweetened chocolate, but that was the least of my worries. The cookies were far too rounded, and way too hard. I have determined that multiple things could have caused this:

1. Distraction during measuring, which was not entirely my fault, and I don’t really think has anything to do with anything, but I’m putting it here just in case.

2. Overbeating/underbeating: my baking guru Aimee (yes, the Aimee of the green beans) explained to me, after reading through the recipe and in response to my sad texts of “my cookies! they are le horrible!”, that the first two steps (butter and sugar, then adding three eggs) should involve a lot of heavy mixing and beating, but then the last part (adding in the flour mixture and milk) should be as minimal as bakingly possible. I didn’t exactly do that. Nope. Not even kind of.

3. Overbaking: I thought that the cookies didn’t look brown enough on the edges, but I have since come to suspect that in that particular oven, fifteen minutes would have done just fine (instead of the eighteen I let them cook).

4. Wrong flour: The recipe called for half all purpose flour and half cake flour, but I didn’t see the point in having my parents buy new flour made specifically for cakes when they already had enough all purpose flour to make all the cookies and then some. I found out, later and from Aimee of course, that “cake flour is to all purpose flour as confectioner’s sugar is to sugar,” which made things make a bit more sense.

Long story short (or maybe just not as long), my cookies came out too hard, too thick, and too dry. Something in the chocolate icing was also out of whack. The great thing about cooking for family and friends of family is that they will almost always eat what you make, even if it is kind of horrible. They all maintained that the cookies had good flavor, and that they would go great with coffee for breakfast. I don’t care, I just hope someone actually likes them, since my personal response is immediate mortification.

My dad doesn't like soft cookies anyways, so he honestly thought they turned out great. In these picture, he is being proud that he figured out that the consistency problem could be tied to choice of flour.

All in all, I felt awful, because I’d dirtied someone else’s kitchen (which I also cleaned) and used up some of my parent’s baking supplies making cookies that did not look, taste, or feel quite the way they were supposed to. No one else seemed to share these sentiments but me. I fully intend to revisit this recipe later this summer, perhaps while in Madison, to see if I can finally conquer the black and whites.

Until next time…

-G