Umbrellas

Written on Wednesday, 2/15/12

When you live in Florida you always have an umbrella handy. This is a habit that comes from getting stuck unprepared in an impromptu thunderstorm one too many times . After that you stock up on umbrellas and stash them everywhere. Winter or summer, rain or shine – there’s always one close by because you never know when the heavens are going to open up. Your car has at least one umbrella – probably two, in case you have a passenger – at all times. I always carried an umbrella in my backpack in college – and I mean always. I spent a lot of time outside walking to and from class and the consequences of getting stuck without one were disastrous. I remember walking home in pouring rain more often than not when I was taking summer classes in 1999. That was miserable. Anyway, when I moved to California permanently in 2002 the Florida girl in me gradually forgot about the “always have an umbrella” rule. It doesn’t rain in Los Angeles at all between April and October, which I discovered during my three Boeing internships. When I was in grad school I acquired a futon from a friend who was storing it outside until she could get rid of it. There was no risk of it getting ruined because there was no chance of rain until much later in the year. The winter is our rainy season and sometimes it rains for days at a time. This is when you have to check the weather forecast and bring an umbrella with you if there’s a chance of rain. I only own two umbrellas these days, both of which I purchases in DC on business trips when I got caught in storms. The umbrella I bought in Sydney, Australia when Dan and I were on our honeymoon fell apart the first time I tried to use it after we got back to the US. Oops. I used to leave one of my umbrellas in a cabinet in DC so I wouldn’t have to haul it back and forth across the country on every trip. But since I haven’t been to DC is almost a year I finally had one of my co-workers send it back to me (along with all the toiletries I was keeping in the cabinet for my previously frequent visits). The umbrellas are bright yellow and kelly green – no plain umbrellas for me! But anyway, in the winter I keep one umbrella in my car in case I need it when I leave the house. That means I should never get caught without one in the event of rain, right? Wrong! It obviously doesn’t help me at all when I leave it in my car and the rain rolls in while I’m at work. Like today. On Monday I remembered to bring my bright yellow umbrella inside with me, but then it hardly rained at all. But today I forgot it., so of course it’s been raining ever since I got here. Isn’t that how it always happens?

“Whole Paycheck”

I didn’t understand why some of my friends call Whole Foods, “Whole Paycheck” until today. Usually I only buy a few items (stuff I can’t find at our usual grocery store), but today I think I went a little overboard because I was shocked at the total when I checked out. Not that I bought anything we didn’t need or won’t use, but definitely more than my normal purchases. It was all worth it, though, when Dan, Bryon (Dan’s brother who’s visiting us), and I devoured a whole bunch of fruit, cheese, crackers, and fig spread for lunch when I got home. Tasty. Last night I took the boys out to a belated birthday dinner for Dan at Bazaar, but I couldn’t get a reservation earlier than 10:30 PM. So to tide us over until dinnertime we ate almost all of the fruit in the house as a snack after I got home from work yesterday. This meant I had to stock up on just about everything at Whole Foods today. After lunch the boys went back to the garage where they’re building an electric guitar and I made a batch of spaghetti sauce for dinner this week using some ground lamb and sausage I bought at Whole Foods. Having leftovers in the fridge is priceless on busy weekdays – especially the spaghetti Dan loves. I’ve tried making my famous spaghetti sauce with meat from the Sprout’s Market near our house, but it wasn’t nearly as good. I suspect the sausage I got there wasn’t as flavorful as the Whole Food variety. Too bad Whole Foods is so much farther away! I also bought some chicken breasts and spices today to make Crockpot chicken curry later this week. The last batch I made mostly ended up on the kitchen floor due to a case of butterfingers (read about it here) so I didn’t get to give it a proper try. I’m eager to find a good curry recipe so I hope my next attempt isn’t another miserable failure. All in all, I think I made some good purchases at Whole Foods, but I definitely won’t be shopping there regularly if I want to keep my bank account healthy. Buying meat for spaghetti at “Whole Paycheck” every other week is OK, but buying all of our groceries there is way too expensive.

Chocolate chip cookies #5

Chocolate chip cookies #5: Based on The Girl Who Ate Everything’s Candied Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies. Baked on 2/12/12.

After making four fairly standard batches of chocolate chip cookies (and one with a layer of caramel) in my search for the best recipe, I figured it was time to try some unorthodox ingredients. Like bacon! I’ve actually had two bacon chocolate chip cookies recipes bookmarked for a long time, but I didn’t have a reason to try either of them until now. I’m blaming this search for the best homemade chocolate chip cookie for all sorts of sins, aren’t I? That’s half the fun (although my waistline would disagree). And how could adding bacon to a cookie not be a good idea? Well, there was nothing too complicated about the first bacon chocolate chip recipe I tried except the way the bacon was cooked. You put it on a baking sheet, cover it with brown sugar, and bake until crispy (or until the sugar starts to burn – take it out if this starts to happen!). Voila – candied bacon! Then just dice it, mix it into the cookie dough, and bake the cookies as usual. Sounds delicious, right? Well, these cookies were good, but not as good as I was hoping. I definitely didn’t dice the bacon fine enough, I don’t think eight strips was enough for the amount of dough, and fact that the bacon was candied might have made the cookies too sweet. Yes, it is possible. My co-workers still really liked them so I think I’ll have to try making bacon chocolate chip cookies again to see if I can improve the result. I’ll keep you posted. But next up – brown butter chocolate chip cookies!

Happy birthday Dan!

Happy birthday to my wonderful husband! This photo is from three years ago, but I really like it. That cake was almost a total disaster, but at least it looked good in pictures! This year I ordered a dozen cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcake because Dan liked them so much last year. They are really delicious and much less work for me. I’m sorry to say that Dan’s birthday present didn’t arrive in time for me to give it to him today, but it’s on the way. I didn’t even cook dinner tonight because I worked so late. I feel like a terrible wife. At least I already have a reservation to take Dan and his brother out to dinner on Friday night at Bazaar. It’s going to be great, even though I couldn’t get a reservation until 10:30 PM. Kinda like a European dinnertime. Oh well. Happy birthday, baby!

Weekend

Dan and I have had a fairly productive weekend. We slept in yesterday morning and then went to The Counter for lunch. I was really craving a burger and fries so that hit the spot, but the Parmesan fries there are dangerous because they’re so delicious. I could easily eat a whole plate by myself. After lunch Dan took me to the Manhattan Village mall to exchange something he bought me for Christmas. I waited long enough, didn’t I? He gave me a hoodie which I really liked, but it was one size too big. Unfortunately it’s too late in the year to get the hoodie in a smaller size so I exchanged it for a white sundress that I can wear to our dance lessons at Arthur Murray. It will be very useful if we manage to get back to Hawaii anytime soon too! Our last stop before going home was at the car wash to give Dan’s BMW a bath. Actually, we let the professionals take care of that while we waited. The car wash has a very amusing selection of greeting cards which is always fun to peruse and a large koi pond outside. Always entertaining. When we got home (in Dan’s clean car) I started the process of preparing for Dan’s brother Bryon’s visit this week. The first order of business was washing two sets of sheets and two loads of towels and then stocking both upstairs bathrooms. Then I started removing all of the clutter from the guest bedroom that’s been accumulating since I started cleaning out the game room (aka, the junk room) a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been sorting all of our stuff from that room into piles – items to keep, items to donate to Goodwill, and electronics to recycle (this is the biggest pile so far). What a mess. After a couple of hours I called it quits for the day so Dan and I sat down to watch the TV episodes that accumulated on our DVR while he was in Illinois. “Top Chef,” “Project Runway,” and “The Office.” I should probably write a whole separate post about “The Office,” but I think I can sum it up by saying that last week’s episode made it obvious that no one outside Tallahassee knows anything about my hometown at all. And if you watched it you’ll know what I’m talking about.

This morning Dan and I were planning to watch the Laker game that started at 10 AM, but he wasn’t feeling well so he slept in. I recorded the game and we watched it when he woke up instead. The game was a real nail-biter. The Lakers built up a large lead early on, but they completely blew it and almost lost the game. In the end they pulled off a win against the Raptors, thank goodness. During the second half I made a batch of bacon chocolate chip cookies as my fifth attempt to find the best homemade recipe. I’ll write more about that later this week, but they weren’t as good as I was hoping. After the game was over I started my second round of weekend housekeeping. The guest bedroom is now 100% ready for Bryon’s visit with clean sheets and everything picked up off the floor. I also loaded up my car with a bunch of stuff to donate and electronics to recycle to take care of this week. I’m working an 11 AM to 8 PM shift this week so hopefully I’ll have a chance to run some errands in the morning before I go in to the office. I still have a lot of reorganizing to do before I’m happy with the final state of the guest rooms, but I’m satisfied with what I accomplished this weekend. To end the day Dan and I watched “Die Another Day” (a Bond film is always a good choice for weekend entertainment) and then I watched this week’s episode of “Downton Abbey” while writing this post. It’s most definitely my new favorite television show. Too bad season 2 will be over soon. I need to start getting ready for sleep soon, but at least I have a good book to look forward to when I crawl into bed. I’ll write about that more this week too. Good night!

Chocolate chip cookies #4

Chocolate chip cookies #4: Based on Picky Palate’s XXL M&M Chocolate Chip Cookies. Baked on 2/4/12.

In lieu of a post with any interesting content (I have several in work, but none ready to publish), here’s another chocolate chip cookie review! I know you guys are excited so don’t even try to tell me that you aren’t. Anyway, M&M chocolate chip cookies remind me of the cookies my parents used to buy for my brother and me to share at our favorite pizza place when we were kids. They were perfect as far as I was concerned. So when I saw this recipe for making XXL M&M chocolate chip cookies using a muffin top pan, which I ordered from Amazon earlier this year, I had to give it a try. The dough was pretty standard and about a 1/4 c of it went into each cookie – they were definitely going to be monsters. As instructed by the recipe, I pressed the M&Ms onto the top of the dough before baking, which kept the color from running and the M&Ms from breaking. The cookies looked beautiful coming out of the oven. They were perfectly cooked and all the same size due to the use of the muffin top pan. Unfortunately the taste didn’t quite measure up as far as I’m concerned. The cookies were a little too cakey for me and they just weren’t as tasty as some others I’ve made. So I guess this recipe is not in the running for the best homemade chocolate chip cookie. The folks who tried them at the Super Bowl party last weekend still had good things to say, though, so they’re not a total loss. On to the next recipe!

Foodie Friday – Pumpkin cake in a mug

I love the idea of making cake in a coffee mug. It’s fantastic that after a few simple steps and just a few minutes you have the perfect personal-sized cake to enjoy. Brilliant! I am a huge fan of the brownie in a mug recipe I discovered last year. It’s so delicious. Unfortunately this pumpkin cake in a mug I made the other day didn’t turn out quite as well. I’m not posting the recipe here because I don’t recommend making it, but I figure sometimes it’s just as helpful to share the failures as the successes when it comes to food. I was eager to make this cake because I had some leftover pumpkin puree in the fridge, but the end result had very little pumpkin flavor. And the texture was really rubbery which was a major turn-off. That tends to happen when there’s an egg in a microwave recipe, which is why I like the brownie in a mug recipe instead. No egg equals no rubbery texture. Anyway, I tried this recipe and it was a bust, but I haven’t given up on all mug cakes yet. I plan to try a few more to see if there are any other delicious discoveries to be made.

Based on Kirbie’s Cravings Pumpkin Mug Cake.