Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Gourmet Endeavors: Cherry- Chocolate Scones

Wandering around the Strand in New York I fell completely in love with a little cookbook that I just had to have. I did not just love it, I was in love with it. It was the number one staff pick (!!!), had great photos of tea parties, and was just the cutest little thing ever. If I am a complete sucker for marketing, at least I am aware. As a lover of independent book stores and scones, I felt that I needed the book in my life.

Alice’s Tea Cup, by Haley Fox and Lauren Fox. With recipes adopted from their tea restaurants Manhattan.

One day later I set out to make a creation from my new book. Pumpkin scones was the mission. One grocery store failure later, and I was standing in the canned fruit aisle feeling the most pumpkin-less that I have felt since the Pumpkin Shortage of 2009. (Yes, it was real national phenomena, my Grandma warned me to stock up.) Anyway, I needed to come up with different ingredients for my creation. I decided on dried cherries and milk chocolate.

An hour later I was elbow deep in a bowl of butter and flour, just a’squeezin and a’mixin as fast as my little hands could go. I am not entirely opposed to the hands-as-kitchen-tools concept, but I was somewhat wary. Just a few days ago, after making a particularly large batch of turkey meatballs, my hands smelled distinctly of raw meat for about 8 hours. Granted it’s more desirable to have sugary, buttery, vanilla dough scent on one’s hands than raw ground turkey and egg, but nonetheless.

My final product was a recipe adapted from my new book, with the addition of a new ingredient pairing. Their recipe was phenomenal, the end result was a buttermilk scone that was sweet, light, and tangy. The dried cherries and chocolate worked great. I would definitely repeat this combination, although there are so many more to try!

Pumpkin Scones minus the pumpkin add cherries and chocolate

Monday, February 21, 2011

New York: 1, My Wallet: 0

Just returned from a weekend trip to New York, my future home. I have been to New York several times in the recent past, and yet I still seem like such an outsider when I’m walking around. One reason for this could be that yesterday I was toting my Adidas soccer duffel bag and clothes-lining people on the sidewalk. (To-do: buy a bag that doesn’t make me look like a child ready to grab my hemp bracelets and head to camp.)

I am ready to stop looking straight up at the buildings when I walk. I am ready to learn to cross the street without getting honked at or nearly pulverized by a speeding cab. I am ready to learn to place my order as fast as the men at the deli expect it. Above all, however, I have one pressing question about life in New York that I will need answered before I pack up my duffels and move in.

How to live in New York without spending so much money that I have to pawn off my belongings, lose my electricity, or pack up and move back into my parent’s basement?

Everything in New York costs money. Someone hands you a towel in a fancy restroom? That will cost you. You want toppings on your pizza? Fork over the bills. You want a bathroom IN your hotel room? Ya, that’s above your budget.

Or my budget at least. As a result of impulsive hotel booking and a slight misunderstanding of information, (how am I supposed to know that “shared bathroom” means sharing the bathroom with the entire floor?) I ended up staying at a place that seemed more like a hostel than a hotel. Most people in the lobby were international travelers with backpacks and our hallway smelled like weed. I have the bladder of a toddler and the bathroom down the hall business really caused me some grief. I was laying awake for about 30 minutes with images of the movie Taken flashing through my head. I eventually realized I had to bite the bullet and venture out into the dark hallways alone.

While next year I will be renting, and thus familiarity will naturally follow, what kind of place makes a toilet a costly luxury?

The charming details of the hotel were somewhat lost on me, as I was too focused on the lack of more practical elements. For example, the elevator was an old thing with dark hardwood on the inside and a hinged door that opened on to each floor. It was cute and reminded me of a servants’ lift that you would find in an old mansion.

This weekend I was more like the international backpackers than any local, awkwardly dragging my luggage, relying heavily on Google maps, and paying too much for accommodations and food.

Here I am stepping on to our floor. I’m smiling because I don’t yet know that we have a dirty bed spread and no bathroom.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Home Sweet Hell Hole

In six months I will be moving into an apartment in a new city. A new city that happens to be New York City, a big city among cities one could be moving to. The process of finding an apartment is encroaching and I am looking forward to it like I look forward to getting my teeth drilled. The Three L’s of apartment rental, Landlords, Leases and Lies, have caused me pain in the past and I do not look forward to repeating the experience.

The first L, Landlords, describes a type of people I believe to be akin to car salesmen. They are all the same. They may come in varying degrees of sketch, but they are all cut from the same mold. All of them may not build a man-den in your garage for their 45-year-old ex-cop friends to smoke weed and watch the Red Sox. That’s only for the special ones, like my current landlord, we will call him Big Money B.
Big Money B likes to party. How hard you ask? Let me tell you. My garage is tricked outtt like the Medford version of Cribs. And by ‘Cribs’, I mean it looks just like a bar down the street. But it’s in my garage. When disheaveled looking men walk up my driveway at 11 pm on a Wednesday I am supposed to think that it’s normal. Winter comes and the temperature drops. Does Big Money B get discouraged by the cold in his DIY sports pub? No, no he does not. He simply moves it into my basement. Thank you, football season for making it even more difficult to do homework on Sundays. Silly me, I was trying to read; for a second there I was beginning to think that I actually lived in a private residence not a goddamn beer hall. Shucks!
B.M.B. lives his life as a landlord perpetually ignoring any and all laws related to renting. Does he call before he comes over? No, simply appears on the porch at the most inappropriate times. (i.e. the middle of a dinner party, when my roommates and I are hung-over in our bathrobes, or when my boyfriend and I are watching a movie on the couch.) Generally when he appears he is dragging along his son whose favorite pastime is taking chocolate milk from our fridge, chugging it as quickly as possible, and going back for more.
My former residence did not have such a colorful landlord, but nonetheless managed to provide my roommates and I with some stories. The official term for this house is ‘shit hole.’ The layout of the house was decidedly unique. Naturally the landlord had wanted to maximize profits by fitting as many bedrooms into the house as possible. Thus explaining why two of us lived in bedrooms clearly fashioned out of the dining room and living room. Lacking any sort of living space, the small mud room at the back of the house became the living room, complete with our own 400 pound 72” TV. This thing was straight out of the 90s. We inherited it after it was left behind by the previous tenets. Left behind because those boys did not have a snow balls chance in hell at getting the TV down the stairs without killing or maiming someone in the vicinity. Naturally, we left the behemoth behind when we moved out as well.

In a few short months I will be looking to put pen to paper and sign a lease, the crucial second L. I’m crossing my fingers that this one will come free of pot-dealing landlords and massive 20th century appliances. But thanks to the third and final L, Lies, you never can tell.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The ultimate catch: not just for end zones any more.

I like to think that most of my time is spent in productive ways. This may be a bit of an overestimation, but let’s say that 90% of my minutes are spent doing things that I will look back on later and be glad that I did; working, sleeping, brushing my teeth, and the like. But I manage to fill the other fraction with some worthless, worthless endeavors.

Exhibit A will be the two hours I’ve spent in the last week watching Ochocinco: The Ultimate Catch. Because despite he on and off field theatrics, our little friend Chad is just missing out in the love department. What better way to remedy this lack of romance than by filling a mansion with Botox, silicone, and lycra blends?

I know nothing about the Bengels, I know minimal about the NFL, but I know dating shows. And this show has all the elements of being extremely entertaining. Let me introduce you to a few of the characters we’re working with…

First on the list is Jasmine (a.k.a. Rainbow-cat-claw-fingernails.) On a dinner double date with Chad and some other biddy, she talks up her ability to take care of him. She doesn’t mention that she could use her talons to dig a moat around his house, which is clearly a possibility judging by the shovels on the ends of her fingers. When dinner is winding down, Jasmine senses the need for a closing argument and pulls out the big guns, the fact that she is willing to get dirty with his children and teach them how to do the stanky leg.

…and crickets.

The next gem is Candace. T.O. comes to the party to screen some of the girls and check them out for his friend Chad. (Terrell definitely doesn’t have enough reality TV in his life with just The T.O. Show to keep him occupied, so it makes sense that he would want to step in.) Candace makes the ol’ “my-parents-are-black-I-was-adopted” joke. ‘Cuz how funny is that? Like she’s bleach blond, so ya know, it’s funny.

…and crickets.

And then there’s all the random ladies whose names all end in ‘i’ teetering around the cocktail party dropping pearls of conversational hilarity all night long.
One self-described Tom boy explains that she is unique because she's "really kick back, hella chill, but when it comes time I can be a pussycat.”

Or my favorite, the cyclical conversation that went a little something like this:
“You’re sexy.”
“No, you’re sexy.”
“No, you’re sexy.”
"No, you're sexy."


And lastly, there’s Ochocinco (that’s 85 in American,) who is a stellar bachelor. He is calm, collected, tattooed, and never afraid to call these ladies out when they step out of line. After one pussycat said she was on the show without her father’s permission, Chad responded with the appropriate, “flag on the field, illegal procedure” call.

Tell ‘em Ocho.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Lessons from the Road: Don't Approach the Bison

When I was younger my mom took us to this farm in the country where goats climbed into tree houses. (I wish that sentence made me sound less like a Teva-wearing flower child, but alas…) It was a wonderful place filled with talented livestock and we ended up coming home with a bunny. To keep the story short, the chronology of Aurora Thumper’s life with us went something like this...

she came, got got fat, she ran away, our neighbors found her two days later, and we offered to let them keep her, they did. The end.

For the two days that Miss Thumper was hopping her obese bunny body around the neighborhood, she was the wildest animal that had graced our part of the city. I live in a place where deer are exotic and when a rabid raccoon falls out of a tree foaming at the mouth, my first instinct is to go over and say hi to the wittle fella. So embarking on a road trip that takes me through the wild western wilderness might as well have been a safari.

I committed to keeping a strict catalog of each animal that we saw along the way. But if the Squirrel Incident of 2001 was any indication, I have absolutely no idea how to interact with wild animals. Hind sight tells me that I have more in common with the people who lose limbs from trying to pet alligators than with Sacajawea. But the best thing about hind sight is that it allows me to look back, reflect, ponder, analyze, muse, stew, ruminate, contemplate, mull...and I digress.

My findings:

Buffalo should be left alone. They can run 30 miles per hour form a dead stop and their horns are not small. So if one sees a buffalo on the road, one should probably not get out of the car and try get a close-up of its flaring nostrils.

Prarie dogs, cute little guys who look a lot like Timone’s chubby younger siblings, should not be picked up and adopted as pets. Not unless you want to catch a modern strain of the BUBONIC PLAGUE. (Hey, modern medicine, I have a question. How the hell is this disease still around? I get that it’s affecting small, ground-dwelling rodents, but stillll. This is the twenty-first century and I, for one, like to think that I can go about my day without worrying about things like the black plague, scurvy, and getting raided by pirates.) So ignore their coquettish looks when they poke their little heads out of their holes. Don’t be fooled by their cute, furry bodies that look like they would fit perfectly in the crook of your arm. They are infected little demons just waiting for a chance to spread a global epidemic.

Six days into my trip and I’m pretty thrilled to be alive. Thrilled to not have a trampled body or a deadly bacteria growing inside of me. So there's that.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Blame it on the feh, feh, feh, feh, feh, feminism

Just the other day back in 2002 I was riding in the car with my older brother and his friends and ‘Wannabe’ came on the radio. One of his friends, in a moment of epiphany and star alignment, said, “This is where all this girl power stuff started, the Spice Girls. God damnit.”

As pimple-faced freshmen in high school, these boys weren’t exactly the voice of the American male, but nonetheless, their opinions have been echoed by academics across the country. A new field of academic study is growing in popularity and notoriety; Male Studies. Apparently, us females, with all of our ‘You Go Girl’-ing and our bra burning, and our higher wage earning have been making men feel less manly. Thus they must combat this with a look into history to uncover all the great things men have done in an attempt to reaffirm their masculinity. Great things like discover new lands, fight wars, build governments from the ground up, make laws, rape, pillage, oppress marginalized groups, and star in action films.

And it’s not just the men in dusty classrooms who are feeling the pressure to grab their proverbial balls and unleash some aggression. Men are shying away from the pretty boy look and glam ideal in favor of a more dominant, husky image. Take pop culture for example, Entourage is now being played on Spike . Which can mean only one thing; the boys from Brooklyn are no longer something to be idolized. (Because lord knows anything sandwiched between episodes of CSI: New York and WWF: Smackdown is no longer in the limelight.) Vince’s chill demeanor and Drama’s tight T’s and manscaping seem a little soft. Instead the new stud on screen is Don Draper of Mad Men. Don doesn’t cry, he rarely even emotes. He says things like “Mourning is just extended self-pity,” and has extra-marital affairs. He wears suits and rules a successful, misogynistic advertising firm. Now, that is the kind of man our men should want to be.

So out with the skinny jeans, man-purses, Zac Efron-esque hair dos and dudes who are whipped by their girlfriends.

And in with the suits and ties, superiority complexes, un-sculpted facial hair, and men who know what they want.

In the words of Don Draper, “If you don’t like what’s being said, change the conversation.”

And in the words of Colonel Sanders, “I’m too drunk to taste this chicken.”

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Diversity is the shit.

My university is diverse. To take a cue from SJP in the Family Stone, “We love the gays.” Our school loves talking about the 16% of us who aren’t US citizens. We’ve got every kind of alliance you can think of; gay-stright alliance, Asian heritage alliance, Christian-Catholic alliances, amputee-people-with-two-legs-alliance. (Ok, I made that last one up…)

Last Friday I walked in on an event in a campus building called “Hillelol”, as in the combination of a Jewish organization and Laugh Out Loud. Five minutes and three small penis jokes later I made my exit, but I was impressed nonetheless. I may not be Jewish or have a small penis but thank god someone at my school does. I love diversity.

One alliance that has received a lot of press lately is the Student- Janitor Alliance. Yes, don’t forget the little people. And in this case the little people are those who clean the toilets after the dining hall whips up a extra spicy batch of buffalo chili, and cleans the halls after Johnny Froshie has one Natty-Ice too many and splatter paints the wall with his upchuck. I’d say they deserve some support and representation.

When I lived in student housing I tried to be respectful and make their jobs easier when I could. But I wasn’t perfect. I remember one time, the Cockroach Incident of ‘07, where I may have done more harm than good. I came home from a party one Saturday night my freshman year and found a cockroach squashed on the bathroom floor. Did I clean up the mess and retire quietly to bed? Did I leave the cockroach where it was and wait for someone else to clean it up? Did I run away screaming? No, my friends, I did not. My mind started reeling; maybe that cockroach was pregnant and there were eggs inside of it when it was killed. Maybe the eggs were still alive and could hatch at any time and an army of roaches could come down the hall and attack me in my bed. So I took the most toxic thing I had in my dorm room, nail polish remover, and poured the entire bottle on the cockroach, killing every last one of those potential baby roaches.
Hindsight is 20/20. And my hindsight tells me that the chances of a pregnant cockroach breeding an army of post-mortem roach children on my bathroom floor are pretty slim. But I’m not a scientist.

Either way, the next day I averted my eyes awkwardly when Susanna was cleaning the explosion of nature and nail care, and I’ve felt bad about it ever since.

So while we’re talking diversity… if there are students advocating for Janitor rights, there are probably some kids who want to do everything they can to make the janitors’ lives hell.
An article in our school paper last week talked about a case of seriel vandalism in Carmichael Hall. A girls bathroom is being repeatedly smeared with excrement. That’s right, POOP.
I just. Don’t. Understand.
How does the university that fosters a alliance between well-intentioned collegians and under-appreciated janitors also house serial shit smearers?

Diversity. That’s how.