“Ain’t Heard Nothin’ Like He-ri-tage!”

After months of painful waiting, I finally received my copies of the “Heritage” CD and DVD on Tuesday. If anything, those last few hours waiting for my package to arrive from Amazon were the worst hours since this show’s announcement. Never mind the fact that I had been fortunate enough to see the show twice last fall–I still wanted the CD and DVD SO badly, and I knew how amazing what I was waiting for would be. Knowing might actually have made the wait worse, now that I think about it. Knowing that Damian would soon be soothing me with a gorgeous rendition of “Buachaill ón Éirne or that I would soon be squeeing over Keith and Neil performing “Whiskey in the Jar” and rocking out on their matching guitars. There was so much to look forward to reliving on the DVD alone, and so much more to hear for the first time on the CD.

I won’t go through every song on the DVD, but rather pick and choose a few.

“Heartland”. A classic. It never gets old. And. DECLAN! Oh, how I love you and your drums. I WILL get my Deco hug this year. I WILL. And a new picture with you, not that I don’t love the one I already.

Or not. TheThunderTube took down “Heartland,” BUT IT WAS REPLACED WITH “THE DUTCHMAN”!! Go watch that instead, before it gets taken down and replaced with a different song.

EDIT: Yeah, they keep changing the videos and I can’t keep up with it. Just go to their YouTube channel. It won’t disappoint (except if you’re looking for all the Heritage videos right now). You have my solemn vow.

(From TheThunderTube)

No words can properly express how I was feeling as I watched “Buachaill ón Éirnefor the first time since last October. There may or may not have been a tear or two trickling down my cheek at the end of the song. That lad has a voice. Pure and simple as that. I wish to reiterate my desire for an entire album filled with soothing songs that best highlight his amazingly smooth and deep voice. “As Gaeilge” (“in Irish”) would be a plus ;).

“The Dutchman”. Oh, “The Dutchman”. Oh, Keith. Sweet, sweet Keith. I love you more and more with each new song you sing. And I love you more and more with your surfer-dude hair. Thank goodness “Heritage” was filmed pre-“Heart-Attack Inducing Hair Cut”. Please don’t do that to me again. I love your “bushy, bushy blond hair-do”. Besides, your “Surfer Medley” just doesn’t work without it. I know it’s your hair and you don’t care what us Thunderheads think about it (you’ve certainly expressed that sentiment, to me even *embarrassed at the memory*), but just please throw us a bone and don’t cut your hair again during touring season . . . at least not drastically like last time. Okay, hair begging over, back to “Heritage”.

“Noreen”. Neil. LOVE. It’s such a beautiful song, made all the more sad because of its history. Phil Counter composed the music for it years ago as a gift for his friend Liam Neeson (yes, that Liam Neeson) and his new wife Natasha Richardson. It was called “An Cailín Fionn”/”Natasha”. Now, a couple of years after her tragic passing, Phil put words to the music and it transformed into “Noreen”. The emotion behind Neil’s performance is just heartbreaking–his eyes even becoming glassy by the end. I couldn’t think of a better person to sing this song. I love every single second of its performance and I can’t wait until the fall to hear it live again.

“Whiskey in the Jar”. One word: *SQUEE!!*. That about sums it up. Well, maybe four more words: Keith’s partly unbuttoned shirt. *Fans self*. Wait, a few more words: running and kilt bouncing up and down. Yup, that sums it up. Oh, to be Keith’s guitar pick in that song. Or to be the lucky person who caught it as he threw it into the audience at the end.

Oh, that shirt. *love*

(From Beth O in the Keith Harkin Fan Forum)

“Place in the Choir”. These photos sum it up quite nicely. So do the words “Damian can’t dance his way out of a paper bag”. It was adorable watching him try to line-dance. Try, being the operative word. Don’t worry, we all still love you.

(From Beth O in the Keith Harking Fan Forum)

(From Amazon, go buy it! It’s only $9.99 right now!)

No, I wasn’t biased *at all* in my song selections. They were all amazing. Just watch it and see.

Now on to the CD!

The “Heritage” CD was my first introduction to Emmet Cahill (Cah-hill) as a full-fledged member of Celtic Thunder. I had listened to the songs on his website, but those were geared more towards his classical training. I was eager to hear him singing with the other lads–would he blend well with them? Would he fit the sound? I wasn’t disappointed. At all. He’s already getting along with the lads on Twitter, and that camaraderie has most certainly translated to the music. I’m very much looking forward to seeing YouTube videos of his PBS studio visits with Keith in a couple of weeks. This is one time I wish I was on the West Coast, so I could watch for myself without having to simply hope that videos will be posted afterward. I’m counting down the days until the Beacon Theatre show on September 24th (EEEPPP!!!) so I can hear and see him live.

(From Emmet Cahill Official Music)

Oh yes, I think he will fit in with CT very well if I do say so myself. Not only is *he* gorgeous, but “Kindred Spirits” is absolutely beautiful. He is one lucky lad to have Phil Coulter write a song especially for him to perform.

My favorite song on this CD, hands down, is “The Galway Girl”. It’s such a fun song that I can’t listen to it without having a goofy grin plastered on my face the entire time. When I first heard it in its entirety, there was a gigantic gasp as I heard Emmet start it off. Oh boy. Keith, you have some intense competition now. Now, Emmet, if you’re at least 6 foot, you might need to watch yourself while you’re here in the city. I might need to kidnap you and hold you hostage in my dorm room. I’m giving you fair warning, boy, so you might want to do some shrinking before the fall tour starts ;).

GREEN STUFF!!

I went to work yesterday, and as soon as I got there I felt like it was a huge mistake. I would feel okay, then I’d feel worse, then okay, then worse. It was a super vicious cycle, and I did not enjoy it one bit. Thankfully it was only a half day and the kiddies were watching a movie during part of the day. I would have died without those things. But finally the day ended and I went to the store to buy real food. I bought some apples, bananas, strawberries, a tangelo (just for kicks because I’d never had one before), baby carrots, romaine lettuce, a cucumber, 2 yogurts, pomegranate/blueberry juice, a loaf of bread, eggs, a can of chicken noodle soup, and meats to freeze. By god produce is expensive here, even where I went.  I didn’t go to Trader Joe’s this time, simply because I knew I would not physically be able to make it there . . . curse you, you stupid cold.

Anyway, I made it home and made a rather large salad for myself. Granted the salad was only made up of lettuce, carrots, cucumber, and balsamic vinaigrette dressing, but it was yummy and “healthy”. Later that night I went for some strawberries, and I noticed something was “off” with them. They looked perfectly ripe and ready to eat, but upon first bite, they tasted funky. It took me a while to figure it out, but I realized they smelled and tasted like PUMPKIN! Now, I have NO idea how that happened, but I didn’t want to let the strawberries go to waste, so I cut and hulled them and sprinkled them with a teeny bit of sugar, then left them in the fridge to macerate overnight and become more “strawberry-y”. It worked. This afternoon I ate strawberries that actually tasted like strawberries and not a fall gourd. That was so bizarre.

I must admit that not all of my food choices have included something green today, but neither were they “unhealthy,” or at least not terribly so. I woke up around 11:30 after a wonderful night’s sleep, so breakfast time was kind of over, and I wasn’t really feeling the breakfast options anyway, so I made a peanut butter and jelly and ate a few strawberries with it. Then for dinner I made a large salad and added some chicken. It was too large. I couldn’t finish it all. So sad. I also used some leftover pizza dough to make a breadstick and sprinkled a small amount of mozzarella cheese on top. A girl can’t survive on salad alone. Sometimes I need some cheese-y goodness.

Down For the Count

It had to happen eventually. My lack of fruit and vegetable-consumption finally caught up with me, and I’m sure my late nights haven’t been helping matters at all either. I started feeling sick on Tuesday and was starting to die by the time I got home that night, and I hoped that it would just pass, but it wasn’t to be so. I woke up Wednesday and I could. not. move. I had to skip work because I literally could not get out of bed because I would get so light-headed and achy whenever I tried. I could manage for a couple of minutes, but no way was I going to be able to get through an entire day. I also didn’t want to expose the kiddies or my coworkers to my sneezing and mountain of gross tissues, so I crawled back into bed. I felt a bit better when I was laying down, and so I thought I’d be able to get some reading done for class. I managed a little bit before I fell asleep again. Then my roommate came home, which woke me up, but I can’t fault her for that because I’m sure she wasn’t expecting me to be home and sick in bed. I tried to do a bit more reading after that and finished with one class, but I just couldn’t start the other stuff. I slept on and off for the rest of the day and caught up on a couple of tv shows on my computer. There wasn’t much movement on my part aside from getting water and toast. I hoped and hoped to be better for today because I didn’t want to miss three classes, but it just didn’t happen.

I woke up this morning and wanted to attempt to go to class, but at the last minute I changed my mind because I still felt borderline. With my luck as of late, I knew that as soon as I got on that bus I would start feeling like death again, and I would just be miserable. I also had a feeling I wouldn’t actually be able to get to class once I got off the bus because I still had to walk about 10 minutes to get to the building, and then another 15 minutes to get to my next class. I ended up just playing it safe and staying in bed again today, and at least now I’m happy to report that I *will* be going to work tomorrow. While I haven’t really gotten out of bed, I feel like my light-headedness has dissipated and I don’t feel quite as lethargic anymore. Unfortunately I’m still a bit congested, but it’s completely manageable now. One thing I’m positive about, though, is that I’m going to the grocery store after work tomorrow and buying as many fruits and veggies as I can get my hands on . . . and probably a couple of cans of soup as well, just to be safe. And yogurt too, I’ve really been wanting yogurt lately.

Today also served as a mental health day since yesterday and the night before were so horrendous. To sum it up in three words: liquids hated me. Tuesday night I managed to spill orange juice all over my pillows, quilt, and floor just as I was getting ready to climb into bed after a long day. Not pleasant. And then last night I did the unthinkable. I flooded my bathroom. Yup. And I could have nearly electrocuted myself to death had my clothes not accidentally created a barrier around my plugged in hair dryer that was on the floor. Don’t ask me to explain how that happened, because I’m not even completely sure. All I know was that there was so much water on the floor and that I no longer have any clean or dry towels because I had to use them all to soak up the water. This means I need to do laundry. Now. What started out as a nice warm shower to decongeste me turned into a life or death ordeal because I couldn’t see if the hair dryer had gotten wet or not. You should have seen me trying to climb out of the shower to get out of the bathroom and into my room without touching the bathroom floor. It would have been a comical situation had I not been so pathetically ill. Thank goodness no one was around to witness my stupidity and it will only live on in my memory . . . until I soon block it out as yet another traumatic event in my life. I have a good habit of being able to do that. I can forget things for months or years at a time until something happens to call up the memory. I really like that time in between. It’s very enjoyable.

Monday night I made the Pomegranate White Chocolate Chunk Cookies. They are SO GOOD. I didn’t take any pictures, though, so I’m going to have to do the *official* bonanza another time.

My birthday cake is also finally gone. I took it to Irish on Tuesday and they all gobbled it up. Thank goodness. I couldn’t have that huge chunk of chocolate in my room another day. Too much chocolate for one person.

Resolutions:

1.) Buy healthy foods, darn it!

2.) EAT said healthy foods!

3.) Don’t flood the bathroom again.

4.) Stop staying out so late. The only exception is for folk group on Tuesdays when I’m home by 11, and maybe an occasional Paddy Reilly’s outing with folk group. I’m realize that I’m not a normal college student. I need tons of sleep and I’m not stupid enough to ignore that blatantly obvious fact. Sleep = happy me, no sleep = grumpy, surly, sick me.

A Lucious Chocolate DEATH

I did it. I finally cut into my birthday cake yesterday. After hours and hours of waiting, one of my friends finally came down to my dorm to experience this with me. I can’t even call it a cake anymore after those first bites. It’s BEYOND cake. It’s . . . LOVE! That’s the only way to describe it . . . well, I suppose “heart attack” would be a close second, but let’s not think about that right now. I’m in agreement with my friend on this one when she said “It’s your birthday. Calories don’t count.” (Shhhhh, I know it was after my birthday, but it was the first piece of my birthday “love”, so the statement still stands.)

It was so hard to cut into the cake because it was so dense and thick, not to mention cold from being in the fridge for so long.

I could barely finish my piece because there was just so. much. chocolate. The ganache layer was a bit overwhelming, but the light and fluffy mousse layer balanced it out a bit.

I honestly don’t know if I can ever make this cake for myself again. I definitely need to have a huge group of people in mind if this ever hopes to be made again. SO. MUCH. CHOCOLATE.

After the first bite my friend said she didn’t need a man. I’ll take that as a compliment.

There’s still so much left. We barely made a dent in it. I’m gonna die a chocolate death to end all chocolate deaths. I don’t care that my friend said we weren’t sharing this cake, it’s coming to either Irish class or folk group on Tuesday. It needs to be gone before it goes bad. Leaving it to go bad would be even worse than eating it all myself.

One final note: when you eat this cake, you don’t need to eat anything else for like 3 days. You’re that full. I didn’t eat anything the day I made it (the chocolate aromas were enough for me); I pretty much just ate some eggs/English muffin and my piece yesterday; and today I’ve eaten two super mini bagels with peanut butter, mac and cheese, and a small piece. STILL STUFFED! And yeah, my diet is still crap. Needs to change real soon or my stomach will revolt against me. Maybe I should make those pomegranate white chocolate chunk cookies tomorrow. You know, to consume some fruits and oats and all that.

A Very, Very Happy “Chocolate Overdose Cake” Birthday to Me

Yesterday was my 21st birthday, and I celebrated by going to class all day, coming home and napping, doing homework, and watching the first disc of The Tenth Kingdom. I fell asleep before 1am and didn’t even consume my first legal drink. I know, I’m SUCH a party animal. My birthday wasn’t all boring though, because the night before I went to the Hellogoodbye concert with one of my friends, and it was AMAZING.

Yes, we were on the side, but it was still great, nonetheless.

Because my week has been so hectic and short on free-time, and because I knew back in January that it would be like that, when I first went back to work I told my teacher that I would not be coming in on this date. I chose to designate this day as my “Epic 21st Birthday Cake Baking Extravaganza” day (I just named it that today). This way I could relax and actually enjoy the process, even though I didn’t know what I would be making at the time.

Enter the Chocolate Overdose Cake I found on Beantown Baker’s blog.

This cake has been by no means inexpensive for me to bake. I would not have been so bad if I already had a springform pan, but at least I have one now (although I would have liked for it to be deeper, oh well). I think I’ve spent nearly $30 on supplies for this, but I already know it will be worth every single penny.

I started this process by taping all of my ingredients/instructions/timings to the cabinet doors to keep them in sight, but out of the way. Then I cleared off the counter and moved everything to the tables. There’s so little counter space here that it just wouldn’t have been possible to make the cake with everything still out.

With my iPod playing my Damian and Keith playlist, the extravaganza began.

I started with the brownie layer, so I put some water on to simmer and sifted together the dry ingredients while waiting.

Note the green highlighter I’m using to cross out ingredients and steps on my printed out recipe. I’m so prepared.

Then I chopped up the unsweetened chocolate until it was rather fine. When they say unsweetened, they really mean unsweetened, because I got some on my fingers and tried it. No thank you. I won’t be doing that again.

Then I put the butter and chocolate into a bowl to put over the simmering water in order to melt it down and make it super smooth.

Then I added the sugar and mixed it all together. Then I prepared the springform pan to let the chocolate cool for a bit before I added the eggs.

Next came the dry ingredients.

Bit by bit I mixed it all together.

Until it looked like this and was ready for the pan.

Then it went into the oven for about 30 minutes and I commenced washing my bowls and utensils so I’d be ready to make the cake part. When I stuck a fork in them to see if they were done, I did as any normal person would do, and ate the moist brownie crumbs that came out with the fork. Oh My God. It was absolutely HEAVENLY. I cannot wait to dig into that layer of my cake. I’ll probably have to make these brownies just by themselves sometime.

I started prepping ingredients for the next part while the brownies were still in the oven.

I chopped more unsweetened chocolate.

This time into large-ish chunks.

I didn’t actually chop on top of the simmering water. This position just had better lighting and was less blurry.

Then there was more dry ingredient sifting.

Now the chocolate, cocoa and water melting/mixing could begin.

Once I added the sugar it looked much better and mixed much easier.

Then I mixed the buttermilk and vanilla and set it aside.

Out came the hand mixer so I could mix the eggs and sugar until it was all nice and fluffy.

I was amazed when I took a couple of pictures with the flash on as I was mixing because I swear the mixer is on in both of them. It doesn’t even look like the beaters are moving in the second picture. Aren’t I easily amused.

For some reason I failed to take pictures of mixing everything together, but it really just wasn’t that interesting. I added the chocolate to the eggs and sugar and alternated adding the dry ingredients and buttermilk/vanilla mixture.

Then everything went into the prepared cake pan to bake for nearly 40 minutes. The recipe said 30 minutes, but I guess my oven is colder so it took longer than expected.

After the cake was out and the dishes were washed again, it was time for a break to let everything completely cool before I started on the mousse. At this time I also put a bowl, my whisk, and the beaters in the freezer because they’re supposed to be “well-chilled.” I figured about 2 hours would be enough time in the freezer.

I had a slight mishap while making the mousse. I didn’t look at the recipe and so I poured both pints of heavy cream into my bowl. As I was whipping it, I kept thinking “This is so much mousse for the middle of the cake.” And then I remembered that I only needed ONE pint of it. *sigh*. At least I remembered before it got completely whipped and the chocolate was added. I just took out half and put it in a bowl so I could use it for the ganache later. I also failed to photograph the mousse-making process, but it was just melting chocolate, whipping cream and adding them together.

The I assembled the cake in the springform pan, covered it in plastic wrap, and let it chill in the fridge for an hour.

The ganache came together very nicely, even given the slightly whipped consistency of the cream. Most of the air came out of it after it was brought to a boil and then taken off the heat, so thank goodness my lack of attention to detail did not have any ill effects.

I have never used to much chocolate in one day. Let’s tally it all up: 5 1-ounce Baker’s unsweetened chocolate squares, 2 tablespoons of cocoa powder, and 6 4-ounce bars of Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate. That’s about 30 ounces of chocolate, which is nearly 2 POUNDS! Paired with the sugar in this cake, it’s sure to be a rich chocolate coma and sweet sugar rush to remember.

Doesn’t that look SO good already? I wanted to eat it then and there, even without the ganache.

Dripping and oozing down.

Boy did I make a big mess.

I let it chill in the fridge for about an hour and a half to set up and for the ganache to harden a bit.

STRAWBERRY TIME!

I am happy with my ganache-ing skills and especially pleased that the cake is nice and flat and as straight as I could ask for. I’ll be sure to make another post detailing the demolition of this delicious-looking (and hopefully wonderful tasting) cake.

Now it’s all wrapped up to chill in the fridge until tomorrow afternoon when I can finally dig in with some friends. It’s going to be a long, long night. . . .

At this point–and before having even tasted the final product–I think I can honestly say that this is one of the creations I’m most proud of making. It may have taken me from 10am to 7:30pm, but I would happily make this again and again, as long as I do not have to rush the process. This was the best birthday-cake-making day I could have asked for.