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Un-Valentine’s Day

Well another year has passed, which of course means another year of me being single.  I actually really enjoy it, but if there’s one day that has to try and convince me that I’m a lonely and pathetic person because of it, it’s that abomination of a 24-hour time period: Valentine’s Day.  Really, this is just the stupidest holiday we have, and this is taking into consideration we also have Columbus Day.  I mean, what did that guy ever do?!

But really, what this is about is how gross people get around and on Valentine’s Day.  I’ve got one set of grandparents that are vacationing in Hawaii.  Gross.  I’ve got another set that will probably have a nice dinner, drink some wine, go home and watch Dancing with the Stars or Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.  Ew.  My parents will probably tell each other that they love each other.  I mean, come on!!

Stop it! Just stop it!

Stop it! Just stop it!

Listen people, I get it; you’re in love and you like being around another human being for long periods of time.  You like to talk about feelings.  That’s great.  I’m so glad you’re happy, but keep that crap away from me.  On Valentine’s Day, if I see a couple holding hands, I’m going to shout, “Get a room!” at them.  If I see a couple making out, I’m going to yell, “Gross!”.  If I see a couple with their clothes off about to have sex, well, I’m going to call the police because that is public indecency.

I know it sounds like I’m bitter about being single on Valentine’s Day, but I’m really not.  One of the best parts about being single on Valentine’s Day is being able to do whatever you want with impunity or fear to ruin a “relationship” by not buying the “right” roses.  Sometimes I like to buy a box of chocolates and tell the cashier they’re for a special someone, but really I’m my own special someone and I really like chocolate.  However, I can’t really do that this year because I’ve already done that twice this week, and three times just seems desperate.  Other times I like to watch romantic comedies and heckle them for being “sweet” and “sincere”, but I’m currently banned from all AMC movie theaters nationwide on Valentine’s Day.

This year, I might try something different.  Since I’m dating myself, I might take us out for a nice couple’s dinner at the all-you-can-eat Brazilian steakhouse that I live above.  And nothing says, “I love me” quite like a box of donuts in bed.  I might even go to Applebee’s and get the 2 for $20 lunch special for the both of me.  And if anyone asks if I’m waiting for someone else, I will proudly state that no, I am not waiting for anyone else, I am merely treating myself to a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner, is there a problem with that are you judging me can I have a third bottle of that pinot noir and bring me more meat too, thanks.

Happy Valentine's Day to me!

Happy Valentine’s Day to me!

So to all of you happy couples out there, I sincerely wish you a happy Valentine’s Day.  I hope you enjoy your time together and don’t run out of things to talk about.  And if you see one of us helplessly single people staring at you across the restaurant tonight, we’re not judging you.  We’re merely staring at you to make you uncomfortable so we can enjoy our Meat Lover’s Meat Plate for Two without gagging at the sight of you holding hands in public.  Get a room.

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This is what a Nike ad looks like…

Back in December, my dad unearthed our box of camcorder tapes. My family got a video camera when I was about 7 and we were really, REALLY into it for a couple years; my life from ages 7-10 is highly documented. Outside of that timeframe, I’m not quite sure what I did because it’s not forever imprinted on a VHS tape somewhere. Among the gems of our tapes was our masterpiece classic “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” (in which my brother puts on the type of British accent that you would only find in a movie like “Richie Rich” and tours our home) and a recording of my soccer team awards picnic. As my coach was handing out my coveted participation trophy, he announced: “This is to the player who, at the beginning of the season, didn’t know what to do with the ball. But she has improved a lot and she doesn’t run away from the ball anymore!” I gleefully accepted my trophy for playing on the Red Apples, not realizing that my biggest accomplishment in an entire season was not running away from the ball. This did not bode well for my future.

Around October of last year, I decided it would be a good idea to run a half-marathon. I don’t know what came over me, but somehow I found myself registering for a race and forking out a whole lot of money to run 13 miles in one day. I thought that maybe with a specific goal in mind and maybe some neon colored spandex, I could become one of those people who got some sort of intrinsic joy out of running.

I’ve had my encounters with running in the past, but they haven’t been too kind too me. In high school, I came home from the first day of JV field hockey crying because there was too much running. My sophomore year of college, a friend and I tried briefly to become runners. We made a training schedule, put big bows in our ponytails, and attempted to look like we knew what we were doing as we slowly trotted along. That attempt ended as quickly as it began–though that ½ mile that we could prance down the street without difficulty was pretty great.

I promise I earned this and didn't just steal it.

I ran the 13.1 in March and contrary to what my 7, 14, and 20 year old selves would have believed, I actually survived. I told some of my kindergarteners at school the next day that “I ran a race at the beach” and they immediately wanted to know if I won. When I told them I came in 4,082 out of 8,000, one boy commented “that’s really bad” (thanks, buddy.) My lessons in kindness were not all lost though, because I did have one sweet one look up at me and say “Oh…I wish you came in first,” which made me feel like the best.

I haven’t yet found that endorphin-fueled existence that I’ve been waiting for, but I have found running to be a really great excuse for carbs. I’ve been on a big scone and bread baking kick lately, which has made me keep running so that I don’t look like a monster in my hot pink running spandex. Around mile 8 of the half marathon, I kept thinking that all I wanted when I was done was a couch, a warm scone and a cup of tea. I’m not ashamed to admit that I wanted that way more than the four free Yuengling’s that were waiting for me at the finish line. It’s not the Nike motivational ad I was hoping I’d feel like back in October, but I suppose running for the love of scones works well enough for me. Motivation is motivation right?

Chocolate Chip Scones, adapted from Molly Wizenberg’s Scottish Scones in A Homemade Life (sidenote: a delightful read)

1 ½ cups flour (1 cup whole wheat + ½ cup all-purpose is how I go)

½ cup rolled oats

½ tsp salt

2 tsp baking powder

4 tbsp cold butter, cut into ½ inch pieces

2 tbsp sugar

¾ cup chocolate chips

½ cup milk or cream

Optional and delicious: a handful of dried cranberries and/or chopped nuts (walnuts, almonds, pecans)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. In a medium bowl, mix together the flour, oats, salt and baking powder. Using your fingers or a pastry cutter, rub the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture resembles coarse oatmeal and the butter is reduced to pea-sized bits. Add the sugar and chocolate chips and stir to incorporate. Add in the milk or cream and stir gently to combine. I find it easiest to just mix with my hands at this point, but a spoon works fine too. Form the dough into a rough mass and turn it out onto the counter. There will be some excess flour at the bottom of the bowl—don’t worry about that, just turn it out onto the counter with your mass of dough and incorporate it as your work with it. Form the dough into a disk, about 1 ½ inches thick, and cut it into 6 pieces. Transfer the scones to a baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes. You’ll know they’re done when the bottoms are lovely golden brown. They’re best eaten with 1-2 days. After that, freeze them (wrapped  individually in plastic wrap and stored in a zip-top bag) and defrost in a 300 degree oven or toaster oven.

Conflict Resolution

I’d like to wrap up the week by reflecting on the art of the passive aggressive note. As young people, we move from home to more socially diverse environments, and it can be tricky to try to develop the skills to appropriately handle conflicts that come up with coworkers, roommates, and cab drivers alike. I believe this can be especially tough for women, as we sometimes don’t want to appear too aggressive or bitchy even if the truth is that we have the word “DEMON” branded across our very hearts. I, myself, have participated in more door slamming, stomping, and aggressively loud music playing more times than I would like to admit. Come on ladies, we all do it. It’s a girl thing, am I right? Like our periods!

That said, my favorite tactic that some young women employ to manage conflict is the passive aggressive note. You know what I’m talking about.

Ugh, I remember I wrote the worst one ever to my freshman suitemates who never cleaned the bathroom. In hindsight, it really is no wonder that my roommate hated me so much. I was just the worst.

Still, we mature. And today, I am faced with an issue. See, in my office everybody likes club soda. What no one knows is that I love club soda more than any of them and I dare them to cross me about it. But I digress. To set the scene, you must know that I have a mini fridge below my desk where I keep water bottles for guests. Employees aren’t supposed to take the waters, but they often do. Now, the office always runs out of club soda around lunch time, so, when freshly stocked in the morning, I like to take extra cans of club soda and put them in the mini fridge. I feel as though it is my right to do this because I have a mini fridge. Agree with me, please. Dissent on this matter will not be tolerated.

You might understand, then, how I am upset when one particular coworker of mine comes back to the mini fridge, apparently goes “OOH THE LAST CLUB SODA,” and snatches it away without the slightest consideration about how why it might be in the fridge in the first place. ‘Cuz now, all the club soda is gone and I have no club soda for HOURS until they restock! Ugh.

I won’t be mad in a few hours. It will be OK. If the problem arises again, I will address it like a normal grown. But at the moment, I’m feeling like a passive aggressive note might be just the ticket. Minus the passive part.

Yeah, I poisoned the club soda.

Random Thoughts Loosely Connected to Valentine’s Day

During my weekend of walking around aimlessly, running errands, cringing at the worst broadcast of the Grammy’s in decades, and sitting through a glut of advertisements beating Valentine’s Day to a bloody pulp, I had a random assortment of musings that have absolutely no connection whatsoever.  Typical

Are You There Grammy’s? It’s Me, Apathy

  • The Grammy’s were terrible
  • Apparently, the go-to hairstlye of 2012 is Bad Combover.  Thank you, Justin Vernon of Bon Iver and Mr. Molesley from Downton Abbey for making balding the chic ‘do of the year.
  • Adele’s music has been scientifically proven to induce sobbing, according to the Wall Street Journal.  So really, she’s not some poor girl trying to get over a bad breakup; she’s a ruthless villain trying to destroy the world one heartbroken, slobbering mess at a time.
  • I’ve watched more videos of Whitney Houston in the past few days than any white, upper-middle class male living at home has any right to.  However, I’ve come to the conclusion my favorite Whitney is a toss up between “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” Whitney (a song my friends and I requested at our senior prom), and reality TV star Whitney. Yes, she was “The Voice of a Generation”, but clips like this show you she was really “The Comedic Voice of a Generation”.
  • Words I have the misfortune of seeing in the future: Chris Brown, Grammy winner.
  • Words I have the joy of writing without fear of libel: Chris Brown, convicted felon

And What Did You Do This Weekend?

  • I recently got a library card, and while hanging out at the library on the weekends, have begun to wonder if this might be the catalyst my dating life needs to sputter out of reverse and into park.  This weekend I saw the large print section overflowing with elderlies, the computers crowded with people muttering to themselves, and the DVD section being devoured by people fighting over the newest copy of Breaking Dawn.  Of course, I stayed and scoped out the crowd.  Nothing this week, but there’s nothing more productive to do on a three day weekend than troll the library.
  • It was 75 degrees in Los Angeles this weekend.
  • Our refrigerator hasn’t been working, which means that I’ve had the enviable task of eating all of the perishable food before it goes bad, and drinking all of the beer before it gets too warm.  It’s been a rough week.
  • I went on another date with my sister, this time to the mall.  Horrifyingly, I had a great time.

Why Valentine’s Day Can Suck My Nuts

  • I hate everyone who has someone special to spend Valentine’s Day with, during which they express their love and affection for each other.  It’s disgusting.  And yes, that includes you, Mom and Dad.
  • I considered sending myself a box of chocolates at work to make it seem like someone loved me.  Then I realized that would seem desperate, so I settled on an Edible Arrangements.
  • If I see anyone, and I mean ANYONE, holding hands on, I will yell at them to get a room.

Things That Help, Thanks For Asking

  • I will probably go see This Means War by myself today.

    There can only be one!

  • If I don’t go see This Means War, I will rent Human Centipede, as I feel they both offer up the same sentiment, expressed slightly differently.  Either way, Reese Witherspoon is in the middle.

There can only be three-surgically-fused-as-one!

  • For lunch, I’m going to go to Applebee’s and order the 2 for $20 deal for myself.  And I will finish both entrees.
  • I received a card on Valentine’s Day from my grandparents with $10 inside.  It totally made my day

Cookie Math

One of my biggest goals in life is to be the kind of person who can, at the drop of a hat, whip up something like a loaf of bread without even glancing at a recipe. I know, I know. I dream big. But I think it’s a valuable life skill—one that could give me a whole lot of street cred. Okay, perhaps only a little street cred in Pleasantville, but street cred all the same.

That goal, however,  is only secondary to the thought of having a set of skills that could get me out of any situation. You never know when the only way out of an obscure and/or life-threatening situation could be a basket of muffins or some chocolate cake. Personally, I would be tempted to forgo my plans of pulling off the perfect jewel heist if the museum guard offered me a fresh baguette.

Baking is indeed a science, where things need to be put together in just the right way to get the desired result. Coming up with your own recipes is a tricky business that takes a whole lot of trial and error. In attempts to move closer to my goal of becoming the most threatening character on the block in Pleasantville, I checked out the book Ratio by Michael Ruhlman from my library over winter break. The idea of Ratio is that behind every recipe is a simple ratio to describe the relationships between the ingredients. Knowing the proportions of basic ingredients like flour, sugar, eggs and butter, and how they fit together is the key to cooking by the seat of your pants. And for me, Ratio was the key to total kitchen domination.

Reading through the book, everything seemed to make sense. For example, bread is essentially a 5:3 ratio of flour to water, with some yeast thrown in to the party, that is infinitely adaptable. It makes total sense. But then I read and re-read explanations, attempting to put them to use. And unfortunately, that’s when it hit me: ratios are the only part of basic math that make my brain to feel like it was trampled over by a Clydesdale the longer I try to figure them out. The idea makes sense, but attempting to adjust the ratios to units of measurement so that I could actually make them into recipes was a daunting task.

I wasn’t willing to give up on the dream completely, so I tried out the most basic ratio, a 1:1:1 cookie. I could totally handle that. I figured this balance of butter, sugar, and flour would yield something buttery, light and crisp almost like a shortbread. I was in the mood for chocolate, so I set to work devising a chocolate shortbread.

I was a little skeptical of my choices when the dough turned out to look more like dense brownie batter than shortbread dough. But I forged on, scooped it with a melon baller onto cookie sheets, and threw them into the oven, hoping for the best.

And the best was exactly what I got. They’re not pretty, but they tasted so wonderful–the perfect mix of sweet, salty and chocolatey. And even though it was for but a brief moment, I had conquered math and was rewarded with cookies.

Chocolate “Shortbread” Cookies

These aren’t your typical shortbread cookie, but that’s the closest I can come to describing them. I’d recommend refrigerating the dough for at least an hour before baking, but I’ve made them without doing that and they’ve turned out fine. They are delicate cookies, so make them small and allow them time to cool before removing them from the cookie sheet.

½ cup butter (1 stick), at room temperature

4 oz. semisweet or dark chocolate, melted

½ cup sugar

½ cup flour (I use whole wheat)

¼ cup cocoa powder

¼ tsp salt

Beat together the butter and sugar in a medium bowl. Add in the melted chocolate and stir until combined. In a separate bowl, mix the flour, cocoa powder and salt. Add the flour mixture to the butter mixture, stirring until just incorporated.

Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough for 1-2 hours.  Remove the dough from the fridge and preheat the oven to 350F. Scoop the dough out by rounded tablespoons onto a cookie sheet (using a melon baller is helpful to ensure that each cookie is the same size). Flatten the tops of the cookies using the palm of your hand and bake for 6-8 minutes, until crisp around the edges. Wait until the cookies cool for a few minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.

Will You Pizza Me?

Hey, everybody, want to look at my favorite thing that I found on the internet today? Are you ready for it? You have to get ready for it. Because it’s this:

Once I got over being furious that I was not the one to come up with this campaign, I got to thinking. I want to take a few moments to break down why this is the best idea ever in the world:

1)     Pizza is a perfect metaphor for love. One person is the dough, one person is the cheese, the sauce is the commitment, and all the stuff you might put on top of a pizza is everything in your life that makes your relationship great like your kids and your shared friends and the stuff you like to do together and all that shizz. See? Boom.

2)     Nothing screams forever like pizza. Why, you ask? Well, stupid, it’s not just because of America’s (read: my) unfaltering love for the saucy, cheesy awesomeness. Pizza, at its very core, is simultaneously indulgent and familiar. It is special and fun to order pizza on a Friday night, but also comfortable and not a huge to-do. Pizza, in that way, represents all that a marriage should be: a love that affords both variety and realism. To expect doves and romance all the time probably isn’t reasonable. After all, no one except for passengers on the titanic eats “romantic” food like champagne and caviar every day. And, anyway, let’s look how well that worked out for them:

  • Billy Zane was terrible and pretentious from the start- but do you think Rose would have Split a New York style pizza with Jack the second they got off the boat? Nod that head!
  • Everybody on the titanic died.

3)  I would never mean to imply that pizza isn’t romantic. It is very romantic. It’s just the restrained, acceptable kind of romance that doesn’t make me want to puke everywhere. Let’s keep anything heart shaped out of the picture.

4)     Moreover, pizza, like life and love, is wont to change. Though one’s love may change and evolve from a zesty pepperoni style love to a sweet pineapple kind of love, the root of it never changes. Leave it to cheese to remind us all why we fell in love in the first place. Hm.

5)     Is there anything sexier than grease? Yes. It’s watching me eat a slice of pizza. Other than that? No.

These are just a few of the hundred million reasons why I think this pizza proposal thing is an amazing idea. Plus there’s a limo! And pictures! And a professional home video you’ll never watch! Ugh, does anything sound more perfect?

Future husbands take note.

Plus, hey, it’s refundable.

Dr. Pepper Brownies?

Sometimes, after mindlessly surfing the internet for hours upon hours, I snap back to reality and find myself deep in the archives of a parenting website. That’s when I wonder to myself, “Who am I and how did I get here?”

I found myself in such a circumstance a few nights ago after watching Half Nelson, a movie starring Ryan Gosling as a drug-addicted junior high history teacher. Pleasant, right? So as soon as the movie was over, I ended perusing pictures of desserts on the internet in an attempt to counteract the unsettled feeling that movie left me with. A few episodes of Cheers later, I somehow found myself on a parenting website, reading a post about something potentially magnificent: Dr. Pepper brownies.

Normally I’m not crazy about gimmicky recipes like this; I’d rather just have a really good brownie and maybe some Dr. Pepper on the side. But there was something too intriguing about this not too try. Will I like chocolate and cherry together? Will they be fizzy? And how does soda in a brownie even work? I was skeptical, but the fact remained: I like Dr. Pepper. I like brownies. So why not?

The original “recipe” consists of mixing a box of brownie mix with some diet DP and calling it a day. Somehow I just can’t bring myself to call that baking, so I had to mix up a recipe on my own, sans-brownie mix, just to see what it could possibly be like.

The verdict?

eh.

Perhaps my expectations were too high, but I wasn’t a big fan. They actually ended up more like little cake squares, which is fine, except for when you’ve got your heart set on eating a brownie. These tasted mostly like Dr. Pepper, whatever flavor that actually is, with a slight pinch of chocolate.

I hate for my first post to share something that was less than spectacular but that’s how the baking adventures work sometimes: lots of trial and error and being tempted into baking disaster by weird things like Dr. Pepper brownies. Needless to say, I won’t be posting the recipe because I’m not too proud of them. Brownies are one of my favorite things in the world and I’m not willing to perpetuate the existence of a brownie that is anything less than spectacular.  If you want to call it Dr. Pepper chocolate cake, maaaaaaaybe I’d be okay with it. But a brownie? Not at all. I promise, on my Girl Scout honor, to share a delightful, so-good-you’d-eat-it-for-breakfast brownie soon. But until then, my adventure in soda-brownie science will have to suffice.