Saturday, January 23, 2010


I never really think about New Year's Resolutions until about a week before every new year. I set goals for myself all the time, and when they're fulfilled I create new ones, yada yada yada. I'm in continual amazement each year at the people who say that their New Year's Resolution is to "get into shape." I actually think it's utterly hilarious and here's why: I normally lose weight during the Christmas whirlwind of parties filled with delicious yummies because it's always so busy. However, I get hit with the Post-Christmas Funk about 2 weeks after the New Year and want to eat everything in sight; also during this time, I could hover over a mixer or stove top in the kitchen all day long and never even care about the time spent doing so. With all that being said, I have set some lighthearted goals for myself (that don't include a gym membership), which I intend to take quite seriously, that will be merely the commencement of goals set and satisfied in 2010. One such aspiration is to make the perfect chocolate cake.

My friend Java Lady hosts a dinner party about once a week, and since I love to make dessert, I have gotten into the habit of providing the last course of the meal....unless I'm feeling super lazy and make Java Lady do all the work...Anyways, I've already warned the dinner party crew that they should be prepared to consume copious amounts of chocolate cake this year because they're my guinea pigs for R.'s 2010 Chocolate Cakery Shenanigans.

When I was in Boulder for the summer of 2008, I used to pop into a little hole in the wall restaurant called The Burnt Toast and buy a piece of their chocolate layer cake with chocolate frosting and a Clementine Izze. If you haven't had one of these, get one; Clementine Izzes are what killed Elvis (Not really, but that's what my dad always says when something's outrageously, mind-blowingly delicious.)! The chocolate cake at The Burnt Toast was awesome, and I'd like to re-create it as well as be known for making the perfect chocolate cake. I don't think it's too much to ask for (maybe I should ask for some larger pants with all this upcoming cakery).

With that being said, January 19, 2010 was the beginning. I got 5 cookbooks for Christmas, so I thumbed through them for a recipe with which to commence, and I ended up using a Martha Stewart recipe. While it was a really good recipe, it's not quite what I was looking for. The cake was a little dense; I'm looking for something lighter and fluffier. I did learn a few things, though.

First, why haven't I been heeding recipes that tell me to use parchment paper as pan liners? The two chocolate cakes came off so clean that I didn't even have to wash the cake pans! That was a joke, but seriously, I'm going to start using parchment paper on a regular basis when I bake.

This was by far the most interesting buttercream frosting that I've ever made. It's made with egg whites (I had no idea one could even do that). You have to whisk the sugar, egg whites and a pinch of salt constantly until the mixture reachs 160 F, then you have to mix the concoction in the mixer until stiff peaks form and the mixture is cool (about 10 minutes). Then you add about a pound or more of butter as well as semi-sweet chocolate and voila, you have some just right, not too rich, very light and fluffy chocolate buttercream icing to go on the rich chocolate cake.

And then I slathered the whole cake with the buttercream goodness.

Then, the attendees of Java Lady's latest dinner party, D. and H. and I, all ate cake (after indulging in grilled flank steak medallions, cheesy-sour cream smashed potatoes and green bean casserole). My overall synopsis of this cake is this: It was a little dense in texture, a little too rich, a smidgen dry, and just overall not exactly what I'm looking for in the perfect chocolate cake. The frosting was paired perfectly with the cake, though; and it was a decent cake overall, but I don't know that I'll be making Martha's "Basic Chocolate Cake" again any time soon. One down!

Monday, January 18, 2010

If You Can Afford Me

Every year in January, my mom implements a little concept she likes to call "The No-Spend Zone," which basically means that you can't buy anything in January. It's such a great idea because I love to shop, but I don't need a thing in the world. So it's a good exercise in self-control and discipline. With that being said, I'd like to admit that in my downtime on the Internet, I like to buzz around to my favorite sites, most of which are all retail stores, (besides all my fav. blogs listed on the left) such as Anthro, Piperlime, Sundance, Martha Stewart, etc. The weather here was absolutely great this past weekend, and the first day that it's warmer than 40 degrees outside in the winter, Spring Fever slaps me right across the face and I automatically want to buy something bright and kitschy for the kitchen or some cute shoes. Someone please relate to this so I won't feel weak in character. I fall prey to so many marketing strategies, it's not even funny; at least I can own to it. Anyways, I was frolicking around on the Internet the other day and spotted these gorgeous pitches from Sundance...
...except it costs a whopping $90.00 for one of these beauties (There is a happy ending to this product love, I promise.).
But I randomly went on a Target run with JavaLady last week and spotted this cutesy little pitcher, which is the exact same color as the one from Sundance (the picture doesn't do it justice), and I fell in love with it. Happy Ending: $10.00 for this baby. I can't wait to make some lemonade or sangria to serve in it!
So even though I broke the laws of the No Spend Zone this January 2010, I think Mom would be proud of my find.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Come'on 'N Ride The Train

I had a shift of plans for New Year's Eve 2009; I had originally planned to stay in Lebanon and party it up down there, but on a whim, I decided to buy a train ticket from Charlottesville to Union Station in Washington D.C. My best friend Kerr from UVa lives there (actually, she lives on the Maryland-side of DC, but I still consider it DC), and another great friend of mine from UVa Danno lives in NoVa, so I thought it would be a great time to see everybody while we didn't all have to work. I brought in the New Year with Kerr and other friends at Danno's house in NoVa, then went to Kerry's house with her on New Year's day. On Saturday we decided to hit up some Smithsonian museums on the Mall, so we went to the National Museum of American History and the National Gallery of Art. Highlights included seeing Julia Child's kitchen, my first encounter with Claude Monet original paintings and my personal favorite, the original ruby red slippers used in The Wizard of Oz.
Kerr and I metro-ing into the city!
This is Martha Washington's inaugural ball gown. How do they preserve these things?
Julia's Cambridge, MA kitchen.
In the display kitchen, there were all the books that she authored and co-authored...I actually wonder if she had all of her own cookbooks on a bookshelf in her kitchen. If I had written a bunch of books, I don't think I'd have them on display in my house, but then again, I haven't accomplished anything of the sort, so I'm not judging Julia.
Okay, here they are...number one reason why I wanted to go to the National Museum of American History. When I was a little girl, I was obsessed with The Wizard of Oz, and when we'd be at the grocery store and people would ask me what my name was, I would just smile at them and say, "Dorothy!" I love love loved the ruby red slippers and had a semi-replica pair that were only good for leaving scuffs all over the kitchen linoleum. I actually read L. Frank Baum's book The Wizard of Oz over my last college Christmas break and the slippers in the book are silver, which was a disappointment. And for those of you who think the happenings in the movie are pretty out there, the book is even crazier!
"Sunday, Monday, Happy Days, Tuesday, Wednesday, Happy Days!..." I was pleasantly surprised to find that the American History Museum has The Fonz's leather jacket! It's the little things in life that bring me joy. "Eyyy!"
I'm going to preface comments about what I'm getting ready to write with, I really don't like the all (If you're reading this and you do, move right along to the next photo please.). I thought it was a little ridiculous that they have Kermit sitting in a plexiglass encasement when they could have had something much cooler like Michael Jordan's basketball jersey or some Elvis sunglasses. But no, they felt the need to put Kermit the frog on exhibition. Stupid frog. Okay, I'll stop venting now. Next!
I've never really considered myself a person who's really "into art." I don't get amped about going into art museums, but Kerr and I really love paintings from the Impressionism era, so we made a beeline to the French paintings portion of the museum. It was my first time seeing an original Claude Monet painting. You know when movies depict one or more of their characters having epiphanies while standing in front of some weird painting, and it looks all emotional and life-changing? Well, I know what the movies are trying to impart. I love this painting; I think the movement in it is exquisite--I love how the wind is depicted in art, whether it be in literature, paintings, songs, etc. I felt like a fool standing in front of the Madame Monet and her son because I used to say things like, "I don't really like art," or, "I'm not really into art." And then I felt like an even bigger idiot for taking a picture of it for this here blog. But this digital moment captured below marks a very pivotal moment for me with regard to my art appreciation. The good thing is that I didn't use flash--preserve art!
Danno, Kerr, Me and Jesco catching a Metro after meeting for dinner.
Danno had told me about his sweet Cole Haan shoes, which were really awesome. However, on the Metro ride to Kerr's house, I noticed that he was rocking Nike socks with them, which I'm going to go ahead and call a fashion faux pas. Hi, my name is R. and I'm the Shoe-Sock Coordination Police.
Kerr and I decided to visit another college friend, JohnJohn, who lives on the VA side of D.C. Kerr got a new GPS for Christmas, so we just typed in the address and it told Kerr where to go. You have to be careful with GPSs, though, because sometimes the shortest distance is not always the best route...It took us through the middle of D.C...and back...but we finally made it to JohnJohn's house. This is a little bit of what our trip looked like...a total blur:
I really enjoyed the train ride to D.C. because I didn't have to stress about where to park my car the whole weekend, and plus, it was something new for me. I'd never taken a trip via train before last weekend, so I'd say it was a success. Another notch on my travel savvy belt. I'm not even going to try to tackle New Year's resolutions on this post...another day, my friends, another day.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Don't Stop Believin'

I haven't blogged in so long that I really don't know where to begin....with Christmas, I suppose. I went home the weekend before Christmas and was intending to go back to work for a couple of days prior to Christmas but was unable to do so because of the 30 inches of snow that got dumped onto Charlottesvegas that weekend. While Leb didn't exactly get 30 inches, I couldn't get Black Jack (my car) off of the driveway either, so I was snowed in! Whoohoo! It was the perfect easement out of college and into the real world; I mean, in college, you get a whole month off. Instead I got 2 weeks off from work, (the week of Christmas because of the snow, and the office is always closed between Christmas and the New Year)!
While at home, I went to only one of the karaoke nights in Lebanon on this trip; if one so chooses, he or she can gallavant around Lebanon on 4 different nights to give a one or 15-song concert. I think karaoke can be really fun, though. I sang my classic "Don't Stop Believin'" at The Old Mill one evening; it's the karaoke song that I sing every time I do karaoke. The problem with karaoke is that I actually have to feel like I'm giving a concert while singing it, and if I think the song is lame or not rockin' enough, well, my performance reflects those sentiments. On to other things, though... I went to various Christmas parties with family and friends, played lots and loads of games, which I loved dearly but between all the Monopoly, Catch Phrase (I may actually be confusing these games with Thanksgiving's festivities), Christmas Vacation Trivia and Wheel of Fortune (not to mention the sound of the Yahtzee dice), I am ready to refuel with the free 10 HBO movie channels I'm currently receiving at my apartment. Oh, did I mention that I'm the 1st Annual G. Family Christmas Ping Pong Tournament Champion (played on the court of my sis-in-law's new pong table from Bran)? That's right, I beat the sis-in-law, the mother, the brother and the dad...all I can say is, I didn't go to college for nothing! I'll be ready for some games in another week or so, though. Scrabble anyone? Here are some depictions of my lovely time in Leb for a couple of weeks:
Mom and I snapping shots of our Christmas Eve attire.
Here we have Jug and Tristo playing an epic game of Jenga (a game during which I was merely a spectator). Apparently, they were breaking some Guinness Book record for highest Jenga tower....I think it feel on the 33rd or 34th level.
My 3 lovely aunts, mother, and the one who makes all the magic happen, Granny. I love this picture!
Dually dubbed the Best Action Shot and Game Face of 2009...that's my big brother there. :-)
Answer me this: If each time that you sang karaoke you were required to sing the same song, which one would it be?