Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Lots of Cookies

This week, I decided that we should try some of the cookie recipes that I've been saving from all of the dessert blogs that I read. I wanted to finish using the buttermilk that I bought for last week's cobbler, so I had to try the Buttermilk Cookies. Also, I love how easy and yummy bar cookies are so I decided to try the Raspberry Hazelnut Crumble Bars. Finally, everyone loves a little chocolate and peanut butter so I thought I'd try the Chunky Peanut, Chocolate, and Cinnamon Cookies.

I didn't have enough semi sweet chocolate chips for the peanut/chocolate cookies so I threw in some darker chocolate chips. As I dark chocolate lover, I think it adds a really unique flavor to the peanut butter. They were really easy to make and made closer to 4 dozen cookies instead of the daunting 5 dozen forecasted by the recipe.

The Raspberry Hazelnut Bars called for an 8 x 8 pan for the bar cookies. I followed those directions and this resulted in a 2 inch deep cookie. I think next time I will spread out these cookies farther so they are a bit thinner and more the shape of a traditional bar cookie.

The buttermilk cookies were AMAZING. From the moment that the oven started to smell like sweet well made pancakes, I knew I was going to love them. But add a little glaze and I'm head over heals for these little guys. They were so light and cakey and the little bit of glaze on top added just a tad of sweetness that really rounded out the flavor of these cookies. I didn't put the lemon zest in the cookies that the recipe requires but I have a feeling that if you do it will add a whole new dimension to these cookies. It's a really good thing that I put these in the freezer after dessert night otherwise I might have eaten all 3 dozen myself!

The best thing about all of these recipes was that they could all be made either in the Cuisinart or with the hand mixer. It was a quick and dirty baking night. I really appreciate all of Tara's help. This week's dessert night would not have been possible without her. Feel free to check out the links above to make these cookies for yourself.

Here are the boys watching numerous YouTube videos. Notice how the girls have all found something better to do...

Monday, August 25, 2008

Motivation, Fear, Laziness, and Standardized Tests

Standardized tests have always instilled a certain amount of fear into me. Ask me to write 5 essays...no problem. But ask me to choose between those 5 ever so common answer choices and I get that deer in headlights look.

Apparently, when I was younger, I wasn't so fearful of these tests. My mom tells me that I got 100% on the SAT tests that they give to First Graders. Too bad that's not still the case. In high school, the PSAT started the fear because all of my classmates were so terrified of the test and the school tried to tell us that we needed to do well on it or else (not sure what the "else" was but Catholic nuns are good with the whole instilling fear thing). Since that test and especially the SAT which determined your fate for college, I have tended to over think tests and second guess myself, often selecting the correct answer only to change it to a wrong one at the last minute.

The first time I took the GRE, I was so terrified of not scoring above a 750 on the math portion that I probably wouldn't have been able to tell you my name. This resulted in an embarrassing score of 220. It took many months of thinking and cheering and poking and prodding to get me ready to take it again without this terror. Once I relaxed, I did MUCH better!

Given the effort that it took for me to get to a point where I could successfully relax to do well on my last round of standardized testing, it's easy to see how I'm not chomping at the bit to do the same for the GMAT. I don't know if it's laziness or a lack of motivation or just really not wanting to go through that again that makes this so hard for me.

Nonetheless, I continue to try. Last night's GMAT practice test was a lot better than the first one. Now I know that I need a serious review of Geometry, Combinatorics and logical reasoning. I will continue on this trek and hopefully make the process less painful than it was the last time.

(Note: The Oxford Comma has been added for Mr. J and his grammatical and punctuational happiness.)

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Happy Quarter Century to Me!

I know it's been a while since all of this insanity has happened, but life's been crazy so I've been a bit too busy to blog about it. But here it goes.

First off, I want to say thank you to everyone for their birthday wishes!!! I really enjoyed hearing from all of you and hanging out with those of you who were able to make it out to either checking out cars in Carmel, Vfest in Baltimore or my birthday night out at Medjool. It has been quite the birthday month!!!
Ok and now all of the details....

First, there was dinner with my parents and a trip to Pebble to hang out with them. It was a great and totally relaxing 24 hours and the first overnight visit for J to my parent's house. Actually, it was the first visit of any boy to my parent's house overnight. But it went well. My parents are helping me beef up on my sweater collection since most of my sweaters from college had to go to the Goodwill. They've been keeping me toasty so far.

Second, J's parents decided to take me out to dinner for my birthday because my parents coincidently took him out to dinner on his birthday last year. We tried Spiedo in San Mateo where I enjoyed a very yummy duck that was much coveted by J. His parents added to my gourmet tea collection with a Earl Grey White Tea that I've been waiting to try as well as a beautiful tea pot with pretty leaves on it.

Next, there was my actual birthday in Baltimore, MD at the Virgin Mobile Music Festival with the MixMatchers who had their own tent at the festival. It was a great fun adventure. We had some time on Friday to hang out in downtown Baltimore and enjoy the crab that they're so famous for and walk along the Chesapeak Bay. At the festival, we saw some awesome bands. Some of my favorite were Foo Fighters, Offspring, Nine Inch Nails and Gogol Bordello. I was disappointed by the showing of Taking Back Sunday. I love their music on Pandora but they didn't sound great live. My birthday was on the first day of the show, so we were all focused on getting the tent set up. That night was also the VIP after party with all of the artists. Our friend Lisa was in charge of planning this great soiree so we got to check it out as well. It was great fun with an open bar and fantastic DJs. It was a little bit too fun later in the evening but still a great time. We had lots of fun dancing and hanging out all weekend. Then on Monday, Lisa took us to Baltimore's Inner Harbor where we got to see the hill where Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner, enjoy more crab and go on a nice walk before a long flight home. All in all, a great way to spend my birthday.

Then, there was my birthday night out at
Medjool. Dinner was great. It was 4 courses of tons and tons of food. It was a bit expensive but it was all good. The music was a little random and difficult to dance to, but it was still fun. Also, the roof deck is awesome. It was a bit chilly in the San Francisco summer weather, but luckily they had heaters. Thanks so much to everyone who came out.

The next day, a group of us made the trek to check out the cars in Carmel on the day before the Concours D'Elegance. It was good fun to check out a bunch of beautiful auction cars. We also saw Jay Leno and Patricia Arquette wandering around the auction cars. We also wandered down and checked out the new cars and the concept cars on display. J almost got to drive one of the new Spykers but he was wearing flipflops so they wouldn't let him. After check out the cars, we wandered into Carmel and met my parents at Il Fornaio for some coffee and then wandered to the ever famous Cheese Shop. We got some totally awesome cheese and then split up to secure the spot for the bonfire on the beach and to get food. The Safeway in Carmel was absolutly gorgeous and we got all of the supplies that we needed. We enjoyed a lovely bonfire on the beach. It was a bit misty but it's was all good. We roasted hot dogs and marshmellows and played the usual game of 10 fingers.

All in all, it's been a really fun birthday month. Thanks again to everyone who's helped me celebrate it. I can only hope that the next quarter century is as fun as this one has been.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Fresh Blackberry Cobbler

Our favorite Mystery Box Farm had flats of blackberries that could be purchased in addition to a mystery box. ChuThis and I shared a flat of delicious berries. They were just awesome. I decided that this week's dessert had to use them because there was no way I was going to be able to get to all of them. I was going to use a cherry cobbler mix that I had because you add cherry pie mix to it so I figured it was the topping, but it had dried cherries in the mix and I didn't want to taint the blackberry flavor with another. I did my usual Google search and came up with a really wonderful recipe that used fresh blackberries.

If I was going to make this recipe again, I'd definitely cut down on the amount of water used in the recipe as it was really watery and I'd probably also cut the butter that's placed in and around the blackberries as well. The crust dough also required a bit extra buttermilk and water to make it really stick together but worked really well in the blender.

If you'd like to make your own cobbler, go here.

We also seem to have added arts and crafts to dessert night. This week, we did macaroni art. Check out some of the masterpieces.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Lemon Crumble Bars

This week's dessert was inspired by Sandra. She had been on a cleanse for over 14 days and had not eaten any wheat, alcohol, caffeine or red meat. I hadn't figured out what I was making for dessert night yet so I thought I'd take some suggestions.

Sandra said that lemon bars and crumble cookies were the things that she missed the most. I did some thinking and the usual Google searching for recipes and happened to come across this recipe for Lemon Crumble Bars. They are a unique combination of a crumble cookie with the filling of a lemon bar in the middle.

They were really tasty and not too tart which was nice. I have no pictures of this week, but I will say that they are really messy cookies. You should be prepared for lots of crumbling. Happy Baking!!

Strawberry, Mango & Blueberry Filled Pavlovas

This post is VERY late considering that I served this dessert on August 5th. I will keep it short and sweet.

Let me just say that pavlovas might just be one of my favorite desserts. They are light and crunchy on the outside and have just a slight chewiness to the inside. They are just slightly sweet but not overly sweet which is my favorite type of dessert.

In addition to being so tasty, these are super easy to make and people think that you did something amazing. They go really well with fresh fruit. Also, they can be flavored (ex. chocolate, strawberry) to add a slightly different twist.

Here's J enjoying one

If you'd like to make your own, go here.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Something to ponder...

I was on the search for a quote for my friend Courtney's wedding book and happen to run across this one...

We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to accept the life that is waiting for us.
-- Joseph Campbell

Just something to ponder on this average Tuesday, especially as I'm trying to stick to an impossible plan.

Monday, August 4, 2008

I Can't Believe It's Already August?!?!?

It's just SOOO insane that it's already August. Were did all of the time go? It feels like it should be the beginning of July or even earlier! I was just starting to stop wearing sweaters to work (ok, maybe not since it's freezing in my office) and all of the summer fun was ahead of us.

Perhaps it's because I use the impending date of my birthday to judge how much summer is left and since it's already this weekend, I'm feeling like this summer is already over. It has been a busy summer. I've been home to Monterey probably about 4 times, maybe more, been to Colorado with J, been to concerts, birthday nights out, eaten tons of crepes at the best crepe stand in the city (thanks Alan for introducing us to it), and we're getting ready to go to Baltimore for the Virgin Mobile Music Festival this coming weekend. All in all, despite the speed at which life is flying at me, it's really good. I really like my new job a lot. I have a great set of friends that I've done all sorts of fun stuff with this summer.

In spite of all of the good things, it is a harsh reminder that I'm rather behind on a lot of the things that I wanted to do this summer. It's good for me to see my friends head off to their new adventures for the school yeah and either start business school, head back to law school or finally join the real world after finishing some sort of post-grad work. I see that perhaps that's something that still might be interesting for me despite the fact that I really have no reason why I want to go to business school anymore and this might not be the right time in my life for what I thought I wanted out of business school (but I'm not going into a philosophical discussion in this post, I promise).

I'm just shocked at how fast this summer's gone! I guess it's time to buckle down and start really making a dent in all of those things that I wanted to accomplish before the summer's officially over.