Monday, May 13, 2013

It's been a long, long, long time...

Perhaps little known fact: my favorite Beatles song isn't a McCartney ballad. It is, in fact, a quiet little Harrison number on the White Album: Long, Long, Long. I feel like it's so different from their other songs, but also kind of what got them started: a simple love tune. I love it. And it has, in fact, been a long long long time since I've written, so while Hubby watches Game 7 of the NHL Playoffs (Blueshirts all the way!), I'm here to finally cough up the updates I owe you.

Two weeks ago, I ran my second 5K race and PR'd with 32:27. I still finished in the last pack of runners, but damn it, I still wasn't last! This race was smaller, with only 107 runners (I placed 75th). The race meandered along a bike path in Mercer County Park, and it was a completely lovely day: cool, sunny, with the trees and flowers just beginning to bloom. Of course, that meant I could literally wipe off a layer of pollen from my face afterward (and I really did). But I couldn't have asked for better weather.

This was Hubby's first race, a test run, if you will, before his obstacle 5K next month. Oh, and by obstacle, I mean zombies chasing him. In addition to slogging through blood-filled ditches and climbing up a rope ladder and other "fun" things. I will be watching from the sidelines, thank you...the only thing I want to wash off after a race is sweat. No interest in mud, goo, or zombie remnants. haha But he and another friend will be running for their lives, and I'll certainly be there to support them. We have funny post-race photos planned based on the outcome (survivor/victim).

I've checked off some shopping wins recently. I had two specific shopping needs: spring evening wedding and 2 Gatsby-themed parties. I actually nabbed the Gatsby dress a month or so ago on a trip with my Mom. We popped into m y favorite consignment shop, Rebecca's Vintage Consignment right in town here. There was a dress I had been eyeing for a while--the perfect 20s party dress. But alas, it was about $70, and I just wasn't that into it. But when Mom and I went in and it was still there, and 50% off...well, damn it, that merited a try-on. What the what? It was waiting for me, in my size, 50% off and fit perfectly? That sucker came home right away. It's currently in the capable hands of a talented friend who is repairing some of the beadwork for me so I can flap the nights away.

I also just crafted a 20s-inspired headband to wear, and found great shoes at Rebecca's on a later shopping trip (scored for $8, thankyouverymuch). On this later shopping trip (just this past Saturday, in fact), Tara and I were patrolling the wares of Bordentown, and since I wanted to look for a Gatsby hat (the only thing I struck out on!), visited the consignment shop. No dice on the hat, but I found shoes that would work, and then Tara pointed out a dress to solve my wedding-wear conundrum! Hubby and I will be attending a friend's wedding in two weeks at the lovely Moorestown Community House, and as the wedding is an evening spring affair, I wanted something fun, romantic, and colorful. I had been watching a few dresses at David's Bridal for a few weeks, waiting for a good sale. I was set to check them out, but then Tara pointed it out: everything I was looking for! I checked the tag: it was my size! I checked the price: $30! I flung myself into the dressing room and crossed my fingers. Blammo. Perfection! I waltzed out and sought Tara's opinion. All it needed was a pair of shoes I already owned to keep the hem off the floor, and I was sold. Signed, sealed, delivered. Further win? The shoes had no price tag, so Rebecca said, "Meh, $8." And with my resident discount, both dress and shoes came to about $33. Hot dang! Every time I look at the dress I'm convinced it was kismet--I can also wear it to lots of other events in the future, so definitely worth every penny.

No spoiler pics of either dress for now, but you won't have to wait long. I will share pics, however, of my recent baking success. See the next post for that, though--don't wanna cram too much in here! Also to come: spring 2013 gardening.

Cheers until then.

On the homefront...

We finally hit a rhythm of springy weather, and I've been a busy bee in the house and without.

I'm still waiting for my perrenials to pop up and come back to their full glory, but every day I see the hostas unfurling more, and the rusty coleus are getting brighter and standing taller. Calladiums won't come up for a while (if the come back at all...fingers crossed!). And the new additions this year are red impatiens, 2 varieties of fern, and a white hydrangea.

The impatiens are plopped right in the ground as they'll die at the end of the summer, but the hydrangea is potted up nice so we can take it with us and plant at our future home. The ferns and hydrangea, unsurprisingly, seem very happy, but the damned impatiens...sigh. Always an uphill battle. I don't know what it is--I see other impatiens blossoming like rock stars, but my little guys are still looking sickly and weak. I Miracle Growed them for the first time this weekend since they'd been in the ground stretching their roots (or so I hope!) for 2 weeks now. Hopefully with some encouragement they'll fill in a bit more.

So here we were as of planting day back a few weeks ago. I'll have to take some more photos once the new mulch goes down and compare how things are looking.

And now, the rainbow cookies. Oh, you guys, the rainbow cookies. This is a recipe I had been eager to tackle for a long time, and I figured when better than Mother's Day? In addition to the scones, clotted cream and lemon curd I had planned (only the scones were homemade, though I do have a recipe for lemon and lime curds that I'm eager to try...stay tuned for that!) I decided to tackle the rainbow cookies. I found a recipe that was very straightforward, and used 99% of ingredients I already owned. This would test my method, though! In addition to a new preparation in general, I'd have to tackle two processes I had yet to undertake: whipping egg whites to soft peaks, and using a double boiler. Both concepts I'd understood, and I'd beaten cream to soft/stiff peaks plenty of times, but egg whites...oh, that'd also mean I'd have to successfully separate the eggs, another process I'm still perfecting (I will think of Sabrina every single time I crack an egg; I can't help it). I did screw up the egg whites--there must have been some unwelcome moisture or food particle or something in there cuz I was beating like crazy for a ridiculously long time before accepting I had screwed it up. Thankfully, on my second attempt (sorry 4 wasted yolks!) that ish came together in about 3 minutes.

Long story short, the baking process was broken down into two nights: on the first, I made and thirded the dough, died two thirds, baked all three layers. Once that was done and cooled, I added raspberry jam to the green bottom layer and apricot jam to the white center layer, stacked them up an popped them into the fridge to chill and compress overnight.

Fast-forward to the next night when I trimmed off the crispy, uneven edges to make a nice-looking rectangle. Used a double boiler to melt chocolate and frosted top with chocolate. Back into the fridge to harden up. Then, finally, I was able to slice it up. That's where the "I'm totally nailing this!" kinda ended. haha They tasted AMAZEBALLS, but hmm...a lot of them were weird shapes because the chocolate cracked. So slicing is a science I will have to perfect over the next few attempts.

When all of my baking was done, I portioned two sets of everything--scones and cookies--for our two Mother's Day celebrations, and packed up a few cookies to take to work on a test audience. Perhaps the greatest compliment I got came from my office manager: "As an Italian girl born in Brooklyn, I can say with confidence these are the best layer cookies I have ever had, and I have tested a significant number of Brooklyn Italian bakery layer cookies. These are really really really good—moist, flavorful, really perfect." Bam. I was all ::drop the mic:: on that one! I got that comment a lot, actually...three other people also told me they were the best they had tried. Yeh, I'll be patting myself on the back for a while.

What's next on the baking horizon? Lavender-blackberry scones and homemade lemon curd.

And now, friends, you're all caught up for now. And so until my next adventure (or 8...sigh), I bid you goodnight.

Friday, May 10, 2013

It's been a disgustingly long time, and I'm sorry

I have updates for you once I commit my bum to the couch and boot up the old laptop. I tell you, I've spent much less time on my computer since I've become dependent on the Why turn on a whole machine when what I want is already in the palm of my hand?

But yes, updates. My second 5K race (PR), gardening (trying some new annuals and finally fulfilled a dream-plant fantasy with some forward thinking), new baking endeavors (Italian rainbow cookies), and beginning the house hunt (baby steps!).

Yes, friends, I've been up to big things.

I've noticed a lot of my titles lately have apologetic. So I've gotta either stop feeling guilty or get on here more often.

I hope to do some updating over the weekend, though, so keep a weathered eye for me!