So, um, yeah? Not a post I ever thought I’d write.

*Crawls out of the woodwork* Hi! Yes, I am actually here right now; no, I didn’t completely forget about this blogging endeavor. Will I be back for good? Who knows. . . . I just needed to write this particular post.

Celtic Thunder–Keith, Damian, Paul, Ryan, George. What can I say? I fell in love with those five lads at the end of my senior year of high school and have been a devoted Thunderhead ever since. It’s been a roller coaster of emotion along the way, what with the musical changes (Hey there, “Storm”), the lineup changes (Bye, Paul and Damo. Hey, Emmet and Colm. Bye, Emmet.), and the hair changes (Oh, the hair changes!). But this right now is without a doubt the lowest of lows we Thunderheads have ever experienced.

Two weeks ago, George suffered a massive heart attack and didn’t make it. 46 years young. Every so often I’ll feel a pang in my heart and it hits me all over again. I had only interacted with him a handful of times, but the special thing about the lads is that they let us into their lives and make us feel like family. You don’t get that same level of connection with many others in the spotlight. Sure, I’d shed some tears for their passings, but George just hits even harder than they ever possibly could. I don’t weap at the reception desk at work for just anyone.

I remember when I went to the Celtic Thunder show at the Tilles Center in Fall 2009–the first stop on my three-show whirlwind. By some miracle, I was second row in the pit, and I managed to scoot over to the center aisle seat. I came fully prepared with small signs to hold up to try to elicit reactions from the lads. They worked. Fantastically. I got winks and eyebrow raises from George (as well as other small reactions from everyone else).

And then when I went to their Boston show two days later, I met George outside the buses and got my first picture with him. Hanging out around the venue for the afternoon, I saw him passing in and out through the stage door a few more times, and he always stopped to interact with fans. I do remember him mentioning he had to get in for a sound check, but that didn’t stop him from stopping to talk briefly. He was that kind of man.

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(Curse you, windy Columbus Day Weekend!)

In Spring 2012, he booked a solo gig at Paddy Reilly’s. Folk group’s post-Airneal stomping grounds. There was no way I was missing that opportunity! He played a lively and entertaining set, and it’s that night I got my second picture and one-on-one interaction with him. Those pictures are now even nearer and dearer to me than I ever could have imagined.

I guess what I need to take from his passing is that I have a life. I need to enjoy it. Attempt to experience it. Sure, sucky things seem to keep happening in 2014, but why should I let that stop me? Yes, not trying *might* avoid heartbreak and disappointment. Maybe. That’s not even a guarantee with how things seem to be going, though.

I try, I fail in an epic fashion, I cry a bit, and then I move on. But move on to something I enjoy/want or am even slightly curious about. I just need to try something. Anything. There are already so many things I regret not doing, and I need to stop adding to that list. At least trying and then failing affirms my gut feelings and instincts, and then I can stop “what if?”-ing. I already did one thing I was petrified and anxious about, and yeah, the end result was less than ideal, but now it’s over and I can work on putting it behind me. Time to find my next adventure.

George, I’m already missing you like crazy. I hope you’re up there singing with Harry Chapin–I’m certainly singing along with you down here as I figure out the next step to take.

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Short Hiatus!

I can’t believe the school year is almost over. The Spring semester is flying by and it’s going to be a mad dash to the end with everything going on. Which means I’m going to have to put my posting aside for a while so I can write all of these papers and graduate. Oh my, “graduate” is such a scary word. I still can’t wrap my head around the fact that I’m going to be a college graduate in a matter of weeks. School has been my life for how many years now? It doesn’t feel real!

Goodbye Vacation

Winter break is officially over after this weekend, and I don’t know if I’m ready to get back to the grind quite yet. This break hasn’t been as productive as I wanted it to be, especially in the book-reading department. I had a list of books I wanted to get through, but I just couldn’t make it through all of them. I was only able to finish The Cupcake Diaries series (a cute little kids series from Simon Spotlight) and The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.

Oh my, The Night Circus was absolutely amazing. It actually took me a bit less than two weeks to read it, but it was worth every second. I had been itching to read it since August, but timing was never right and The Strand never had a used copy available.  I finally got my hands on a copy, though. When I first heard about this book months ago, I believed it to be a YA novel, but then I read that the author is very adamant about the fact that it is not. The length of time it took me to read it is also a testament to the fact that it is very much a work of adult fiction; I can usually get through a considerably long YA book in a matter of a weekend, but The Night Circus has so many details and intricacies to it that I was forced to slow down in order to even try to take it all in. The tendency to jump between years in each chapter was a bit troubling at first, but by the end of the book I was able to get the timeline straight.This book is definitely something I would not hesitate to read again, because I am sure that I missed at least a few things, especially in my moments when I was half-asleep reading. The characters are well-developed and the plot is not so predictable that reading becomes boring.

I’m also in love with the book’s physical design. If I may say, it’s very classy. The jacket is wonderful with its black, white, and red coloring (the same palate as the circus itself), and the actual cover is beautiful with silver designs inlaid on a black background. I’m a sucker for a beautifully designed book, and these colors all come together in a wonderful way. The only way to describe it is that it’s classy, pure and simple.

Okay, enough about The Night Circus. On to my most recent batches of doughnuts!

Unfortunately I have no pictures of my improved chocolate doughnuts. They were just too good to wait for natural lighting so I could take proper pictures. Instead, I just have the recipe I came up with, which was inspired the Lara Ferroni recipe I used before.

Baked Dark Chocolate Cake Doughnuts

*Makes 9 delicious doughnuts*

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour
2 1/2 tablespoons dark cocoa powder (I used Hershey’s Special Dark)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup granulated sugar                                                                                                                                                                                                                           3/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              5 squares of Trader Joe’s 70% Pound Plus dark chocolate, shaved/chopped

Steps:

1.) Preheat the oven to 350F. Lightly spray a doughnut pan with non-stick spray.

2.) Mix together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and baking soda so it is all evenly incorporated.

3.) Add the sugar, nutmeg and salt. Stir to evenly incorporate.

4.) Add the melted butter, buttermilk, vanilla, and egg to the dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.

5.) Carefully stir in the finely chopped chocolate.

6.) Fill each doughnut well 1/2 to 3/4 full. I used a spoon. Don’t overfill the wells, or the holes will get baked over. That would be sad.

7.) Bake for about 8 minutes, until the doughnuts spring back when touched. Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

8.) Once cooled, glaze if desired (1 cup powdered sugar, slowly add buttermilk or milk until it reaches your desired consistency, add a splash of vanilla).

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The doughnut-making didn’t stop there. I made those ones a few days ago, and I couldn’t resist making one more batch of doughnuts this morning. But this time I went with the Baked Glazed Doughnuts from Iowa Girl Eats, and I spruced them up with a dark chocolate glaze. I love me some dark chocolate!

I followed the recipe for the most part, but instead of using the cinnamon it called for, I replaced it with my new favorite baking spice: nutmeg! I used a little more than 1/4 teaspoon of that glorious doughnut spice.

For the chocolate glaze, I shaved 3 squares of Trader Joe’s 70% Pound Plus dark chocolate. Then I added about a teaspoon of milk and melted it all in the microwave for about 15 seconds. Then I mixed it vigorously to melt the remaining bits. I added 1 cup of powdered sugar and a bit more milk to the chocolate and mixed it all together until smooth. As it was there was a distinction between the chocolate and powdered sugar, so I added a splash of vanilla and a pinch of salt. Perfection!

I cooled the doughnuts before dipping the tops in the chocolate glaze. Then I put them aside to further cool and set up. I may or may not have put each doughnut in one of the wells from my muffin top pan. A normal plate was too small to fit all six doughnuts, but the six over-sized wells were a perfect fit. It was fate.

I only hope I’ll be able to share the remaining doughnuts with my three roommates and a friend who are coming back to the city tonight. But if not, it’ll be a great excuse to make them again. The glaze really is perfection. I could swim in a vat of it. I especially like how it sets up and becomes a thin but fudgey blanket over the doughnuts. Yum!

Clockwork Prince Release Event

Here’s something a little different.

Interning at Little Simon has had so many perks this semester. I don’t know how many free books I’ve gotten from the give-away shelves, but it’s a lot. Yesterday topped it all, though.

I was introduced to Cassandra Clare’s books in the spring, and I read all of The Mortal Instruments series and the first book in The Infernal Devices series over the summer. Just like so many other fans, I was eagerly awaiting the December 6th release of Clockwork Prince (the second Infernal Devices book). And wouldn’t you know, her publisher, McElderry, is an imprint of Simon & Schuster! If that fact wasn’t obvious before, the giant poster at the end of the hall on my floor certainly clears up any doubts. Love it.

Needless to say, when I received the invitation to the in-house release event, I was literally through the roof with joy (and it was certainly needed that day). If the event wasn’t at a time when I wasn’t normally at S&S, you could be sure I would be there anyway. Thankfully it fell during my normal work hours, so no classes needed to be skipped to take part.

Well, the day and hour arrived and I was the second person to the conference room, aside from the people setting up. I quickly snatched up a copy of Clockwork Prince to get signed, and then the waiting began.

People wandered into the room bit by bit, and it was pretty packed by the time the guest of honor arrived.

We toasted the release and ate cake, then those of us who wanted to, got in line to get our books autographed. Despite the ton of people that showed up, not everyone was as enthusiastic as I was about meeting Cassie and getting books signed. I took that as a good thing, because I didn’t feel nearly as guilty about lining up 4-ish times.

When it was my turn, we exchanged pleasantries, and wouldn’t you know, Cassie had thought she’d met me before! I wish! She was so nice and personable, even after the fourth time I came around, haha.

I stayed until there were only a few stragglers left (mostly editors and such who were required to be there), and boy did I make out like a bandit. All of those pretty books on the table were ours for the taking, so I took. I now have in my possession a signed collection of Cassandra Clare’s works. I even managed to get a copy of Clockwork Prince signed and mailed off to the friend who introduced me to these books!

Now I just need to get back to S&S when the fifth Mortal Instruments book is released on May 8th. And wouldn’t you know, that’s my school’s Reading Day! Perhaps I’ll be paying S&S a visit that afternoon. . . . I can’t wait!