Testing…again

So just as soon as I fixed my blog on 8/24 I promptly broke it again. And it’s taken me over a week to figure out how to hack into the guts of the webpage code and fix the problem I caused. Oops! At least now I know what NOT to do. Phew. Now bear with me while I work on the page layout, theme, etc. (You know, all the unimportant stuff that bugs me when I don’t like it.) And then we’ll get back to my usual witty written repartee!

Testing

Testing. I screwed something up royal and I’ve been trying to fix it for three days! Numerous code problems, database problems, theme problems, and plugin problems. Issues just keep cropping up! It’s still a work in progress.

Bad Saturday

FYI, this post contains discussion of pseudo-personal medical information of a female nature. Nothing graphic, but I wanted to inform everyone upfront in case any male visitors want to stop reading. I completely understand if you either don’t care about such matters or would just rather not read about them. Either way, you’ve been warned!

When I was eighteen I started taking birth control pills because I had debilitating menstrual cramps. Once a month I would wake up in unbelievable pain, and sometimes it was so bad that I vomited. I remember lying on the bathroom floor in a fetal position, crying because I felt so terrible. I could barely function until the cramps subsided. This made going to school on such days really miserable. Sometimes painkillers would help, but only if I took them soon enough. If not, there was nothing I could do but wait out the pain. Then when I was eighteen my mom took me to the doctor to find a solution. After trying a few different options, one particular variety of birth control pills finally got my cramps under control. It was wonderful. Some months I still had mild pains, but they were completely manageable compared to what I used to endure. I ended up taking birth control pills for fifteen years. I only stopped in January 2012 when my ex-husband and I decided to try and have a baby. That’s when I was reminded of how horrible menstrual cramps can be. I usually miss a half day of work every month because I can’t do much of anything when I feel so awful. I dread this day every month.

Yesterday morning I was awakened at 4:30 AM by a twinge in my abdomen. I knew exactly what that meant. I sprang out of bed, ran downstairs to grab my Aleve, and took two tablets as quickly as possible. I was hoping to ward off the worst of the symptoms because I was registered for the Seal Beach 10K at 8 AM. Much to my chagrin, it wasn’t very long before I was in major pain. I stayed in bed with my heating pad, unable to go back to sleep, and prayed that I would feel better in time for the race. Unfortunately luck was not on my side. I only began to feel a little better around 7:45 AM, which was far too late to get ready and make it to the starting line in time. What a disappointment. I can’t believe I had to miss the race in my own hometown! At least the shirt is pretty cool this year. That’s something, right? The rest of my day was basically a wash since the Aleve wore off around noon and my cramps came back with a vengeance. I felt terrible pretty much the whole day. What a way to spend a Saturday. So for anyone out there who thinks women are exaggerating when they talk about period pain, please understand that some of us are truly suffering. And it’s even worse when I miss something I was looking forward to, like a race, because of cramps! Better luck next month.

NaBloPoMo success?

If November was only ten days long I could say that I succeeded at NaBloPoMo. But unfortunately November has thirty days so I was somewhat less than successful. Everything fell apart last Monday when I almost forgot a doctor’s appointment and had to work late as a result, which is what I think turned my post-a-day goal into an epic failure. I phoned it in on Monday with the wordless post, and then the rest of the week I just lost motivation to write anything. It was lazy, but it’s not like I was sitting around doing nothing. I worked a lot, ran errands, cooked, and finished training for the Avengers Half Marathon (which I ran this morning). Besides the race, which I will write about in a day or two, it’s not like I missed documenting a spectacular week or anything. In the grand scheme of things my NaBloPoMo failure isn’t a big deal, but I still hate not finishing something I set out to do. Wishful thinking says that I’ll do better in December, but with the holidays coming up fast that’s probably not true. Oh well. I’ll still do my best to write about what’s going on in my life, especially now that it’s my favorite time of year.

Speaking of my favorite time of year, I’m sitting in my hotel room near Disneyland, waiting a few hours before I go back to the parks to enjoy the Christmas lights and the special holiday festivities. Last night I went to bed at 8:30 PM to make sure I got plenty of sleep for my half marathon, only to be woken up by the 9:25 PM Disneyland fireworks. It seriously sounded like bombs were going off in the hotel parking lot, so even if I’d been wearing earplugs I don’t think they would have helped at all. Tonight my plan is to enjoy the fireworks from Disneyland’s Main Street instead. Also, I’m going to try and catch the nightly World of Color show at California Adventure park. I spent about four hours in the parks after lunch today, but the lines were too long for me to get on any rides. Plus, my legs were sore after running 13.1 miles in the morning so walking was more beneficial than just standing or even sitting for a long period of time. That’s OK. Winter is the best time to go to the parks at night so I’ll try to find a weekday evening to come back for the rides. Or maybe I’ll be able to get on a few of them after the fireworks tonight. Fingers crossed that the crowds start to go home after 10 PM!

Something stupid

I’m sitting on my couch in pain for a completely ridiculous reason. Over the weekend the smoke detector in the hallway right outside my bathroom went off while I was in the shower. This has happened a couple of times in the past and I think it’s due to the steam. It’s very annoying. I had to jump out of the shower (dripping water all over the floor), drag a bench from my bedroom into the hallway (after moving a bunch of books and clothes off it), wrestle the smoke detector off the wall, and remove the battery. Geez. After I finished my shower I probably should have put the smoke detector back on the wall, but I left it dismantled and forgot about it. Then on Tuesday as I was enjoying a nice hot shower after my evening run, the smoke detector in my guest bedroom started going off. I was so frustrated! Having to run around soaking wet to shut off an ear piercing alarm will definitely ruin your day. Not only that, it can be hazardous to your health, as I’ve discovered. You see, I had to drag the heavy bench from my room into the guest bedroom, which is up a couple of small stairs. As I lifted the bench to get it up the stairs I thought, “This is going to be bad.” I didn’t know how right I was until this morning. The right side of my back hurt with every movement and with every breath I took. It was miserable. I took some ibuprofen and applied my heating pad for a while, but I only got marginal relief. Unfortunately I couldn’t take the day off because I had too much to do at work, so I eventually lurched around enough to get dressed and ready to leave the house. Let me tell you, computer work is not the best thing for a sore back. I grunted and groaned my way through the day until I could go back home and relax my aching muscles. Needless to say, my evening run will have to wait until tomorrow, at least. I’ll heal in a day or two, but the bigger problem is that I have two disabled smoke alarms that will go off in the vicinity of a hot shower. I need to find a solution for that. But for now I’m going to spend some quality time with my heating pad before I go to bed. Ouch!

Baking distracted

Imagine you have a nearly perfect dark chocolate brownie recipe. After tinkering with it a little (original recipe here), you’ve got the flavor and the texture just right, but you need to make one more batch to ensure the correct pan size. Your last batch in a 13×9″ pan made brownies wasn’t quite right so you want to try an 11×7″ pan instead. You’re convinced this is going to be perfect and everyone who tries one of these dark chocolate brownies is going to be blown away. It’s going to be amazing! Then imagine as you get down to the business of baking these life changing brownies you are able to coax exactly the right amount of Hershey’s Special Dark cocoa powder out of the container, and not a teaspoon more. A good start. After doing a happy dance you set your last four eggs out on the counter to warm up, two for the brownies and two for a batch of cookies to come afterwards. It’s all working out just right! You melt some butter, and then mix it with the right amount of sugar and the carefully harvested dark cocoa powder. Everything is going well. But then you tune out for a few minutes, probably watching something stupid on TV, and accidentally add all four eggs to the mixing bowl. Aargh! You stare at the four eggs sitting there on top of the brownie batter. What now? You can’t very well start all over again without going to the store for more cocoa power and eggs (and it’s too late in the day to consider that). The remaining options are either toss everything out and give up, or make the brownies anyway and see how the turn out with four eggs instead of two. You choose the latter and cross your fingers as you put the pan in the oven to cook. Maybe everything will be fine. Unfortunately that’s not the outcome. The brownies turned out dry and spongy. They seriously had the consistency of a kitchen sponge. Basically inedible. What a waste of good baking ingredients! So the moral of the story is, don’t bake distracted!

Fall 2013 baking fails

Since my last two posts have included lists, I figured, why mess with a good thing? Let’s keep this trend going! I’ve been gathering up all of my baking fails from October, November, and December so I could share them in single post. On Friday I’ll share the recipe for the awesome oatmeal chocolate chip cookies I made last night, but for now here’s one giant list of all the awful things I baked in the last quarter of 2013!

White chocolate pudding snickerdoodles – These are the cookies pictured above. I’ve gotten some great results using pudding mix in cookie recipes (i.e., vanilla pudding chocolate chip cookies, red velvet chocolate chip cookies, and some triple dark chocolate cookies I haven’t written about yet) but this isn’t one of them. I thought the white chocolate pudding mix in these cookies would be really unique and interesting. I was wrong. I actually couldn’t taste it at all. Don’t get me wrong, these cookies weren’t bad, but they weren’t worth the effort either. Next time I’ll just use my go-to snickerdoodle recipe which is awesome.

Pumpkin sugar cookies – I combined two different recipes to make these cookies (this one and this one), but I was really disappointed. They turned out bland and way too cake-y. I should know by now that using pumpkin makes cookies more like cake. Without added texture you just get a gooey mess. That’s why I should just stick to my favorite pumpkin chocolate chip cookies made with oatmeal. I love pumpkin so much and I’m always trying to find new ways to bake with it, but this attempt was a total flop.

Chocolate pumpkin cookies – Here’s yet another combination of two recipes (this one and this one) that turned out badly. Not only were these bland and too cake-y, like the pumpkin sugar cookies, but the chocolate flavor was completely undetectable. I have no idea how that is even possible. I was a little embarrassed to share these at work, but I took them anyway because you never know who might like something. Perhaps I should have just tossed the whole batch. After the mess that was these cookies I might give up making anything but cake with pumpkin puree!

Mint chocolate chip cookies – Mint chocolate chip is my favorite flavor of ice cream, so why not a mint chocolate chip cookie? It sounded like a good idea at the time, at least. The result wasn’t at all what I intended, though. This is one of the batches of cookies that I took to San Francisco for Thanksgiving, and it was by far everyone’s least favorite. The mint flavor was subtle, which is how I wanted it, but it just didn’t taste quite right. They weren’t bad, but they weren’t good enough to include as a separate post in my search for the perfect chocolate chip cookie. This is the second time I’ve put peppermint extract in a cookie and neither time was a success. I think I just have to give up on that idea. Maybe in a chocolate cookie? I’ll save that idea for next Christmas.

Backsliding

I haven’t been feeling well for the last few days, for reasons I’d rather not get into. Until yesterday I didn’t run the nights I was supposed to this week and I definitely didn’t eat right. I know I’m going to pay for this backslide – both mentally and physically. (I have already, actually, but more on that in a minute.) As I’ve said before, if I don’t keep up with the things I should be doing I get really upset with myself. I’m trying to not be so hard on myself this year, but it’s a really difficult habit to break. One step at a time, I guess. Speaking of steps, to prevent my fitness from backsliding too much I went running last night. My ankle was feeling great after three days of rest so I was hoping to get the full benefits of my new stability shoes. Unfortunately the whole experience was miserable. I felt OK until my second mile, but then my feet and ankles started hurting as much as ever. It was awful. Clearly the new shoes are not helping me at all. Tomorrow I’m going to take them back to the running store and hopefully exchange them for something else. I’m really frustrated because a run that goes as badly as last night’s did makes me nervous to go out and try again. What if my next run is just as bad? What if it’s worse? It’s a fear that’s hard to overcome. This is unfortunate because I have a New Year’s resolution to run a race in 2014 and I really want to make that happen. But since this topic deserves its own post I’ll save it for next week.

Running isn’t the only place I’ve been backsliding. Among other things, my writing has been suffering too. And since my blog has such a vast readership I’m sure this has caused lots of unrest on the interwebs. (I’m kidding, of course – I’m pretty sure I only have two or three readers, max. But don’t think I don’t love you guys!) I’ve had some good posts in 2014 and some seriously lame ones too. I love Wordless Wednesday, but I have let that laziness bleed into too many other days as well. Terrible. I’d like to say it won’t happen again, but I know it will. I’ll just try to minimize that cop out as much as possible. For heaven’s sake, I started blogging almost fifteen years ago because I like writing! So in an effort to exercise my brain as much as I’m exercising my body (when I’m not neglecting my running) I’m going to use some writing prompts as catalysts for posts this week. Back in 2011 when I signed up for National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) for the first time I looked over the daily writing prompts that the website provided, but none of them inspired me at the time. But over the years I’ve gathered a few that I liked and stored them for future use. Starting tomorrow, I’m going to pick a prompt each day and use it to help me write a better post than if I was just to rehash my very mundane day. If nothing else, it should be an interesting experiment!

Another quiet Saturday

I had a quiet Saturday today so I thought I’d share a funny little story. This morning I went to the movies to see “American Hustle” so that I would be more prepared for the Golden Globes on Sunday. (I haven’t seen nearly enough of the potential award-winning movies this year yet.) It was a good movie, but not one of my favorites this year. (I should have gone to “Frozen” instead again, but that’s another story!) By the time I got out of the theater I was ready for lunch, so I headed to Corner Bakery and got a turkey sandwich to go. When I got home I pulled a new jar of banana peppers out of the cabinet so I could add a few to my sandwich. I love banana peppers, but the jar wasn’t exactly easy to open. I swear those things discriminate against women with our smaller hands and diminished ability to build upper body strength! After several tries I finally conquered the seal on the jar, but my victory was short-lived because as soon as the lid was loosened I spilled pickle juice (banana pepper juice?) all over my jeans. My freshly laundered jeans. I had to go change because I reeked of vinegar, Sheesh. I guess it was worth it, though. Those banana peppers made my turkey sandwich really delicious! I hope everyone else had a good Saturday.

Holiday baking failures

Salted caramel brownies
You guys know I only post a recipe if it has a generally positive result, right? Well, I also try quite a few recipes that range from just okay to really bad! Those are the ones you don’t hear about…until today! I’m going to share two of my biggest baking failures which both happened during the 2012 holiday season. Let’s start with the salted caramel brownies in the right hand side of the above photo. (FYI, the salted caramel chocolate chip cookies on the left were awesome. They were chocolate chip cookie recipe #18.) This picture does not even begin to illustrate what a disaster these brownies were. I’d had this recipe for Sweet and Salty Brownies pinned for a long time and I was really excited to make them for a Halloween party last year. However, I was a bit lazy and didn’t exactly follow the recipe. Instead of making the caramel sauce as directed I used a jar of ice cream topping instead. I assume this is where it all went wrong, but I’m not sure. As I usually do, I lined the pan with aluminum foil, but the caramel seeped out and stuck to the foil during baking. This made it really hard to cut the brownies after they’d cooled. Luckily I was able to salvage enough without bits of foil stuck to them for the party, but I was pretty fed up by the end of that ordeal. I love salted caramel desserts so I really wanted these brownies to be awesome, so I might have to try them again, following the recipe religiously, to see how they turn out. Maybe for Halloween this year!

Sparkling cider pound cake
When Christmas rolled around I wanted something appropriately festive to take to a party at a friend’s house. This is the same party I made the wildly popular snickerdoodle bundt cake for, but the second dessert I made for the same occasion was less successful. I was really interested to see how this Sparkling Cider Pound Cake was going to turn out, but I ran into a few roadblocks. I followed the recipe pretty faithfully except for using all butter (1 c) rather than a mix of butter and shortening (1/2 c each), but I don’t think that was the cause of my problems. The difficulty came during baking. I don’t have a picture of this cake to share because the outside of it burned before the center was fully cooked, and then it fell apart when I tried to turn it out of the loaf pan. What a disaster. I take full responsibility for the cake falling apart, but I think the recipe needs a few minor tweaks. I suspect a slightly lower oven temperature (probably 325 deg F) and a slightly longer cooking time (probably about 60 min) would make this cake a complete success. I only got to taste a few bites, but the flavor of the unburned portion of the cake was scrumptious! The sparkling cider flavor was very prominent and I really liked it. I am definitely going to try this recipe again later this year to see if I can get better results. I think there’s a great deal of promise there. It’ll make a great Christmas or New Year’s dessert!