Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Naptown Romance

Annapolis is near and dear to my heart. My own personal history started out in this town when I was born in the old downtown hospital. No longer in existance, it is believed here that to be a true Annapolitan you have to have been born in that specific building. Our generation is dying off needless to say. Two weeks ago it was perfect out. 70 degrees graced our fair land which meant it was the perfect evening to hustle to the docks and do some people watching while enjoying delicious hotdogs from Pips. As it was the perfect weather to be outdoors, everyone and their mother decided to also meander down to the water and take in the sights.

The sisters [almost all of them] were looking particularly beautious this fine evening. Mere wasn't wearing her awkward lacrosse gear [have you seen those "kilts" and "face masks" they wear? do parents want their children to look like mass murderers? lacrosse outfits would venture a yes to that question] and looked lovely as the sun set cast a warm glow on her face.

It would have been just perfect if this picture wasn't posed and Joanna had just happened to look off into the distance like she was pondering something deep and thoughful. My best guess is that she was thinking about monkeys.

Spring in Annapolis is really the best time to go downtown. Sweat doesn't drop down the small of your back as you try and consume melting ice cream faster than a blow torch would take to melt it. Tourists are generally not yet walking around asking silly questions like, "where are the midshipmen hiding?" I'll tell you where they are hiding? Out at sea because it's summer. 

After enjoying our people watching and corn dogs, we scooted up Main Street to The Clay Bakers to paint some pottery. I am determined to have an entire set of Teletubbies eating ware. I am especially excited to paint the main platter with all of them gracing the top. That way when I am eating my sisters delicious chocolate chip cookies, I will know that they are endorsed by playful, colorful, vague shapes with weird names. Mmmm... I am going to have the best set of dishes ever.

Needless to say, it was the perfect Friday night with the little sisters. Downtown Annapolis is truly a romance town and oh so very perfect.

Now if only the rain would let up.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Flashback Friday - Pre-Lane Nostalgia

As I have been going through some of my older pictures, I am reminded by my epic visits to Gordon pre-Gordon education. I fell in love with the school while my sister studied and worked in its hallowed halls. She left for school at the beginning of my 11th grade year if I am remembering correctly, and I visited her at least three or four times while she was there for her two years. Almost every time I visited, Lauren would work at least once, and I would join her. The rules in our school cafeteria, Lane, were a bit more relaxed back in the day. Once I scooped icecream and made fraps for about 3 hours sans pay. It was wonderful. 

People often wondered at school why I loved Lane so much. I could work there forty hours a week and still be enamored with the crusty blue polo shirts and slick tile floor. I loved the 'fry-a-lator' and the sandwich line. I loved the pizza oven and dough press. I loved the sound that students cards made as they were swiped through the check out machine. I did not love taking out the trash. The bags were often five sizes bigger than I. I loved the chefs. I loved cutting vegetables in the morning with Katherine. I loved being scared to death by Glen when he his around corners. I loved working stir fry with Nasser as he tried to teach me how to flip the food as I cooked it in the pan [those poor students who I threw food on]. I loved having a question of the day for all the students that came through the stir fry line. I loved how close I became to the people I worked with for hours on end.

So now you know. This love for a cafeteria started young. I didn't even attend the establishment yet when the feelings started to build and grow inside me. I just can't help the connection.

I've got a double chin in the picture below... what? I totally rock it.

Some more sister pictures. I cried the day we dropped Lauren off at college. It was kind of traumatic for me.

Melissa joined me on this little Gordon trip in 2006. We stayed in Lauren't apartment. Worked at Lane. I made peanut noodles that were far to peanut buttery. Ech, I can still taste it.

I know that I have been thinking about Gordon a lot for a few reasons.

1. I am visiting that great school this weekend for a friend's birthday
2. I am coming up on a year that I've been gone [where does the time go?]
3. I have some really dear friends abroad this semester, and I miss them

I wonder if other people are as attached to their alma mater as I am.
Are you?

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Personal Camera History

An insight into my journey on this earth so far would have to include my slight obsession with capturing the moment in photograph. Those who knew me at a young age can attest to the fact that I was shoving my camera in their face at the age of ten. It only got worse from there. By the time I was in middle school I made sure to document every little area of my life. Stubbornly holding onto my film camera, I vowed to never switch to a digital. Why would I give up tradition for an object that was sure to become obsolete in a few years? In my middle school mind it made perfect sense. I paid for my film commitment, however, as the cost of printing every roll of film proved to be expensive on my paper route income. It was not until a digital camera was placed in my hands as a Christmas present that I would accept the digital age. Fueled by the ability to take pictures at whim and not pay with my pennies later, the amount of pictures taken sky rocketed to new extremes. Instead of just saving them on my parents computer, I transferred most of the photos to discs. Just recently I uncovered that stack of cds, and they are now fueling my Flashback Friday entries. My first camera was an Olympus with a shutter speed that amounted to a lumbering elephant with a broken foot. I would push down on the camera button and by the time the picture would actually take the subject had grown three inches and gone through puberty. Blundering ahead with no real skills or training, the next camera I purchased was also an Olympus. Perhaps I was taken with the name and believed I was a Greek god who wielded the powerful ability of seduction with my point and shoot camera. Or perhaps my dumb enthusiasm had gotten the better of me. Whatever the real cause happened to be, I was stuck with another digital camera whose shutter speed was akin to Buddha running a marathon. I plowed forward with this piece of metal garbage for another few years. During this time I tragically dropped a memory card filled with my Botswana bush adventures on the bottom of a bus and never found them again. The Olympus gods were out to make me suffer. How I lusted after the shiny and incredibly fast SLR Nikons and Canons that I saw slung around tourists necks in Annapolis. I knew my life would be better and more fulfilled if I too owned and cared for such an object. Finally Uncle Sam gave me a break. My senior year of college I got back a tidy tax refund that would either make my wildest dreams come true, or help pay for college. Unbeknownst to my father, who was collector of all things college money, I traversed to Best Buy on a rainy Thursday afternoon and bought my first Canon Rebel SLR. Joy and joyness commenced shortly thereafter.

So you may have wondered before why I take so many frickin pictures. And quite honestly, this short paragraph does not in fact answer that question. Therefore, I am sorry. There was no point to any of this. Below I have provided you with a few pictures from a little photo shoot in my parents side yard with my sister and next door neighbor. They were enthusiastic but lacking models. They know as well as I that “angry” is not the only emotion that models harbor. Models also emulate “hungry” and “crazy” and “I’m better than you.” Kidding.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Cake Disaster of 2011 - Part Two

Picking up where I left off: I had just made all the layers for my cake and the marshmallows were toasted to perfection. After creaming the said marshmallows together with fluff, butter, sugar and a little vanilla extract, I was ready to slap that sticky stuff on the layers. 

Let me tell you, dear reader, the layering was going absolutely wonderfully. Sure the cake was a little crumbly and moist, the layers weren't completely straight across, but they were getting stacked! One layer. Two layers. Three layers. Four layers. Fantastic. I felt so pleased with my results that I turned around to finish my last step of the process, whipping up the outside icing. The recipe called for a malted frosting with Ovaltine mixed in. However, I am not the hugest fan of malt flavor. Instead I simply substituted the Ovaltine for cocoa powder. The result was a divine frosting.

The frosting was great, life was great. It was only eleven thirty, I had plenty of time to sleep that night. Life was just peachy. 

Then I turned around.

To this:

My stacked cakes were literally falling apart. The marshmallow frosting was out of control and destroying the cakes with its sticky vengeance. All I had wanted was for everyone to get along and love each other, and this is what happens. You really can't trust marshmallows sadly. As soon as I turned around I dashed across the kitchen to try and save my "leaning tower of Pisa". It was pretty much to no avail. Chunks of cake had come undone, and the tower of chocolatey goodness was tottering. I tried pushing it so it would mostly stand up, but it looked pretty horrendous.

There was only one thing to do. Frost over the entire thing so it would look like nothing had ever happened. I am pretty sure that this is the secret of all great bakers. Julia Child would be proud.

I forgot to get a picture of the cake unwrapped that evening, but this basically shows how unstable this enormous beast was that evening. I went to bed thinking, 'If the cake falls over, it falls over. My parents can discover the mess is the morning'. My spirits were not crushed as the whole ordeal was comical to say the least. 

Aghast at the amount of cake in their kitchen that Saturday, many of my family members departed their wisdom to me. "That is way too much cake. We need to give some away." Such wisdom and understanding. By Sunday afternoon the cake was absolutely gone. I didn't even have to shove it down anyones throat. I barely managed to grab a piece for my coworkers.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Flashback Fridays - The Community College Edition

My observations over the years from not only those I see on facebook, but in the real world as well [i have to have one credible source], has lead me to this conclusion: Highschool was about looking good and having semi-normal friends that partied with you. I'll admit right off the bat that neither of these fit my description of highschool as I had been literally trapped in my home until then. Until I was fourteen my mother shoved books at me while I wept in the corner daily. Yes, I was homeschooled. To change my upbringing in highschool seemed unthinkable, so my parents sent me to a tutorial for homeschoolers where we all sat around staring at our shoes because social skills was not a gift that had been bestowed upon us or nurtured. To complete the social awkwardness coffin my parents had prepared for me, I was sent to the local community college at the ripe old age of sixteen. Now I was by far the youngest student in any of my classes and blushed violently when my acting teacher said anything about sex. I actually wore a Red Delicious apple color on my face when anyone said anything about physical contact. 'What do you mean they kissed each other on the lips?' Twitch. [interestingly enough, this has never gone away] Aside from my near to non-existant social graces in class, I at least had my normal circle of friends who 'kept it real'. Right?

You decide.

Let me preface these pictures by explaining that it was not in fact Halloween. It was a normal school day at the Community College.

I laugh at these pictures now because we did actually have our heads on straight. And all of these people are friends I wish you had, because they are great. The one with the pink hair? I had margaritas with her this week, and we actually communicated on a normal social level while recieving only smiles from those around us. There was no mocking and laughing that I was aware of. These pictures just must have been from 'Wig Day' at the school. That must be the answer. It has to be.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The Cake Disaster of 2011 - Part One

I have never claimed to be an architect. I've never even read a book on architecture. But I have read a few cookbooks in my time. And I really like cake. Chocolate cake to be exact. The other day I was in a restaurant and ordered flourless chocolate cake and a diet coke. The waitress looked at me square in the face and laughed while sputtering out, "Diet Coke?" Lady, that is one of the best combinations in the world! Don't mock me for wanting a drink with no calories coupled with a cake with a lot of calories. Don't do it. Then I shoved my face in the cake like Bruce Bogtrotter from Matilda and ate the entire thing while the waitress looked on and gasped at my bad manners [at least that was what I was envisioning in my head where all good plans are accomplished].

Last week while stumbling around the blog world I found this recipe for a Toasted Marshmallow Cake. It is made with buttermilk chocolate cake and has marshmallows in the middle. Could I honestly pass up making this cake in all its glory? Heck no. Was I really equipped to take on this baking feat with a tall cake? Not really. I'm not a proficient baker, nor am I am architect. However, I did not dwell on my incompetence or inadequicies. Instead I strove blindly ahead on a Friday night by whipping up two of the layers of my grandeous cake.

After they came out of the oven I decided that two layers just wouldn't be enough, so I made two more.

It was quite obvious at this point that I didn't know what was to be ahead in my cake making. Look at me, my hair is down, I'm wearing a scarf, I have a look of indifference on my face. What is this? I also didn't mention that there was about two hours inbetween the making of the first batch of batter and the second batch. The reason for this? My parents were watching a movie and didn't want the blender on. So I watched the Departed for two hours and then went back to cake baking around nine thirty give or take.

Thoroughly prepared [or so i thought, cue Jaws theme music] I set about making the filling for this cake. It involved a lot of butter. A lot of butter. And it involved fluff and marshmallows.

I popped a tray of marshmallows in the oven to broil them so they would have that smokey campfire taste to them without the bear maulings and renditions of Kumbaya.

Then I whipped all the ingredients together to make one tasty and very sticky [think a vat of marshmallow fluff combined with honey... except there is no actual honey in the recipe] batch of toasted marshmallow filling.

At this point it was nearly ten thirty at night. Not too bad. Yet, I was up till at least twelve thirty making this beast. And the disaster hadn't even occurred yet! Well, two of my cakes did kind of fall apart when coming out of the pan. I do believe that was the start of my problems.

To be continued...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Old School Classy

Mi hermana es muy bonita y chula. 

The sister got dressed up for a gala her work was throwing to support the local homeless shelter. That gave her an excellent reason to dress up and look glamorous. I do not know anyone else who can look so very fantastic. I am being honest. My sister is gorgeous [all of them are, but for the sake of this blog post we are just going to stick with Lauren for now. please don't tell the other ones. they might be upset]. She really and truly is. I wish she knew it more. 

Plus, her shoes were rockin'. Quite literally. She looked like a rockstar with those glitter encrusted heels.