New Year, New Bread

Is this a New Year’s Resolution? Who knows? Maybe this lasts, maybe it doesn’t. All I know right now is that I made my best loaf of bread ever today! And I want to celebrate that personal achievement.


Coming off of watching 40 episodes of The Great British Baking Show over the holidays, I needed to make *something,* but a sugar-overload during the latter half of the year has put me off sweet baked goods for a bit. It also seems more reasonable to eat an entire loaf of bread than to eat an entire cake. That’s how it works, right? It doesn’t have a mountain of sugar or butter, so I can eat it all myself?


I used this Rustic White Bread recipe, and I’m quite pleased with this little loaf! Paul Hollywood was in the back of my head the whole time–knead well, don’t over-prove, have steam in the oven for a good crust! Using a Dutch oven didn’t hurt, either. When I brought it out of the oven and gave it a good knock on the bottom, there was a lovely hollow sound. Music to my ears!


All in all, not a bad start to the year!






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.


(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.



Cupcake Week

Last week was a great week for cupcakes! A friend came to visit me in the city, and after we went to a blues and bbq festival on Pier 84 (that pulled pork sandwich really hit the spot!), we went down to Molly’s Cupcakes in the West Village.

There are no words to describe the heaven we were in. I had been there one time previously and loved it, but this time there was no comparison. We couldn’t make a choice at first, and then I had the BRILLIANT idea to get three cupcakes and just cut them in half. I see that all the time on the blogs I follow, so how was that not the plan from when we walked in the door? Crisis averted!

We finally chose the Mixed Berry, Chocolate Decadence, and Creme Brulee and settled into our swing chairs for some cupcake bliss. I knew from the second I cut into the chocolate one that we were in for an amazing experience. We were not disappointed.

I started with the chocolate (obviously!), and it was so rich. I don’t think I could have handled the whole thing. It certainly lived up to its name! Then I moved on to the mixed berry, which was like a perfectly sweet blueberry muffin. The cake and buttercream were light and fluffy, and it was like I was eating a cloud. We each saved the creme brulee for last, since another friend was raving about it before we got there. I’m not even sure how to describe it. It had a thin glaze over a creme-brulee-flavored cake, with a custard filling. It was the perfect ending.

Every so often for the rest of the weekend, when one of us would remember these cupcakes, we would both reply with an “OMG so good!” and sigh in contentment. It was almost a religious experience, and I can’t wait to make the pilgrimage again soon!

Shifting gears, I finally redeemed the voucher I won for frosting the best cupcake at Butter Lane last year. I thought it would be a yummy treat for me and my new roommates. I headed over there after work, eager for another sugary indulgence.

I picked out a Sea Salt Caramel, Strawberry, Salted Caramel with Popcorn, Peanut Butter Banana, Cookie Dough, and Chocolate. I knew immediately that under no circumstances would I share the Sea Salt Caramel cupcake. It was mine.

It was torture waiting for people to come home so we could dig in. I figured we would cut the cupcakes in fours, so we could get a bit of (almost) each. When I ate the Sea Salt Caramel earlier, I had the thought that I didn’t want to share the rest, which made me all the more impatient for later in the evening. In the end it was worth it, as we crowded around the table and sampled the night away.


Home Sweet Home

It’s happened! I’m officially an apartment renter! No longer a dormer! Is this real life? Seriously, am I a legit adult now? Do I actually have to pay for utilities now? No more lights for me, haha! I still don’t fully believe it. I may not have a publishing job yet, but I love my tutoring work and I start a new babysitting gig next week. My life is now work, work, work, and not school, school, school. For the first time in seventeen years. It’s been an adjustment, but I think I can manage. That ever-present knot in my stomach is ever-so-slowly going away, but if only things would stop popping up to make it suddenly reappear.

The best part about this place is definitely the kitchen (sorry roomies!). So much counter space! So many cabinets! Today I had to open every single cabinet in order to find the dishes. I’ll learn my way around soon enough. I can’t wait to start baking. I can just imagine all the delicious things that will be made and shared here. Soon. I just need to restock ALL of my baking ingredients. Which will happen. Sometime.

In the meantime, I want to move away from food shopping in Manhattan. Of course I’ll still get cabinet items and such from Trader Joe’s, but I want to start getting my produce in the neighborhood. A goal I have is to try to shop less frequently at chains, and to push myself out of my comfort zone by checking out local stores and restaurants.

I walked over to The Angel’s Fruit Market after work today, and I was very pleased with their selection, price point, and staff. I scoped out some items in the front of their store and determined that was the quick sale area, because everything was about half the price of the same items inside. When I have a particular recipe in mind–or want to eat an entire pint of strawberries in one evening ($0.99/pint, OMG!!)–I think I’ll pick stuff from this area. I moved into the store and there was so much produce! I took a lap around first to see what I might want, and then I grabbed a basket and commenced filling.

I wanted to buy everything I saw. I think this store will be a great excuse to try new things. There was a large variety of familiar and unfamiliar items, and I might try out one new thing each time I go. I know I want to go back tomorrow in order to get carrots to put in a salad, and maybe I’ll get an apple or two.

While I was browsing, I determined that some items were still cheaper at Trader Joe’s. I guess I’ll continue to buy my bananas and baby spinach there for the time being. My relocation is actually a really bad thing since TJ’s is right on my way home, and now I’ll have an unlimited Metrocard . . . uh oh! I’m going to need to show some restraint, or else I’ll be popping in there way too often. At least I have to walk a few blocks out of my way to get to The Angel. And it’s a $10 limit on credit cards, so I’m restricting pop-ins to cash only, which I almost never have on hand.


Cake Flour Brownies

It’s official. I don’t have any sugar of any kind left in my stock. I don’t count the sweetener packets for my tea as sugar, either, or else I’d have plenty! I used the last of my granulated and brown sugar in these brownies from Cookie Madness, and even then I almost didn’t have enough.

I can’t wait till I have my own kitchen and supplies again, because this whole being in transition thing is doing a number on me. I’m so excited to start moving into my first apartment this week and to have multiple people to bake for again. Just need to restock a few things . . . or everything! I expect I’ll be back to my regular self soon enough.

Thankfully I had some cake flour to use as a vehicle for chocolate delivery. I enjoyed these brownies, but I have to say I’m definitely a fudgey brownie person. Cakey brownies are good and all, but they’re not my first dessert choice.

The unsweetened chocolate, paired with the dark brown sugar I used, made for a rich chocolate flavor. I totally would have made a buttercream frosting to accompany these if I could have. Then I bet this treat would be just perfect!