Wednesday, July 27, 2011

July, 2011 Daring Baker Challenge

Jana of Cherry Tea Cakeswas our July Daring Bakers’ host and she challenges us to make Fresh Frasiers inspired by recipes written by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson in the beautiful cookbook Tartine.

This was a beautiful (the picture doesn't do it justice), delicious, and surprisingly light summer dessert!  I served it chilled, straight from the refrigerator.  On a hot day, after much time out the whipped/pastry cream filling would start to soften quite quickly.

This is definitely a do-again-er; a chocolate variation is tempting, but I really loved the clean flavors of the vanilla and berries.  Maybe in the fall....  And I will definitely test different kinds of fruit next time, as well as my arranging technique!

Monday, June 27, 2011

June 2011 Daring Baker Challenge

Erica of Erica’s Edibles was our host for the Daring Baker’s June challenge.  Erica challenged us to be truly DARING by making homemade phyllo dough and then to use that homemade dough to make Baklava.

It started out innocuously enough.  This looks like a friendly, harmless packet of dough, right?  Try stretching it into 18 sheets of super-thin dough, and see how friendly it REALLY is....

The recipe had a link to a YouTube video of an old Macedonian woman, speedily rolling out the dough around a wooden dowel while chatting away to her friends.  I tried rolling the dough around a wooden rolling pin...but it kept sticking to itself, no matter how much flour I added.  So, I started by rolling it out, then draped it over my arm and pulled in all four directions.  I don't think it got thin enough to read a newspaper through it, but it more or less worked okay.  The directions had estimated 2 minutes per sheet...I was nowhere near that fast.  More like 5!!  I learned my lesson to not begin these things at night on the last possible day.  Until next month's challenge, anyway....

The scene of the attempts at rolling.
Fully baked, with syrup poured on top.
I did not know the difference between "looks like way too much syrup but will soak in and is really the correct amount" and "looks like way too much syrup and IS, in fact, way too much syrup."  Unfortunately, I ended up with the latter.

Overall...not a success!!  I don't like baklava, and do not think my baklava tastes very good.  And it's way too syrupy.  So I will probably definitely throw it out today, since there is just enough sugar and "stuff" in it that I would most likely end up eating it anyway.  

Oh, well, live (and bake) and learn...!

Friday, May 27, 2011

Daring Baker Challenge: May, 2011

The May 2011 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Emma of CookCraftGrow and Jenny of Purple House Dirt. They chose to challenge everyone to make a Chocolate Marquise. The inspiration for this recipe comes from a dessert they prepared at a restaurant in Seattle.

This dessert was a ton of fun to make! There were four main components: (1) a tequila caramel sauce, (2) spiced almonds, (3) a toasted meringue "pillow," and (4) the chocolate marquise itself. I made all four components. The below photos show the plating process from start (tequila caramel sauce) to finish (all components including the chocolate marquise).

Caramel sauce

With spiced almonds (btw, these are TOTALLY addictive!)

Untoasted meringue

Toasted (with a kitchen torch!) meringue

The final product!!!

Friday, May 13, 2011


Today felt much better than yesterday. I had my second (and final!) oral exam of the semester, and now have only one paper to write before the first year of my master’s program will officially be over. My first oral exam, for my canon law class, had gone disastrously – or so I thought. The class was titled “Marriage and the Sacraments”; we had spent the last half of the course covering marriage, and the first half covering everything else with the exception of sacred orders (ordination to the priesthood), which the professor covered in his other canon law class. We spent a significant amount of time on baptism, Eucharist, penance, and the fascinating (I am being completely serious, it is really interesting to analyze!) Canon 844…and maybe one day on anointing of the sick, if that. Guess what the professor asked me about?

Yup…anointing of the sick. I would have been better prepared to discuss anything other than anointing of the sick! Penance, great; ecumenical issues, great; marriage, bring it on. But anointing of the sick? Really?! So I groaned inwardly, and muddled through the next fifteen minutes sweating like crazy and feeling like an idiot. When I left his office, I was convinced I had failed! And of course I was kicking myself, because I had known everything was fair game – I had just bet on the wrong horse, so to speak, and was not as prepared as I should have been. Totally my fault, which really made me feel even worse.

But then, when I checked my grades yesterday – not really thinking anything would be up, but it becomes a compulsion for me this time of year – lo and behold, I had received an A in the class! Disbelief, then elation. Not that I had thought I would FAIL fail the entire course…but I had thought I would get no higher than a straight B, since the exam went so poorly. But I guess I did better than I thought; and that made me less worried that I was going to fail everything and lose my scholarship, as I feared yesterday.

When I talked with my sister last night, she asked if I had ever heard of impostor syndrome. I had – and I had already diagnosed myself with it! According to Wikipedia, it is “a psychological phenomenon [though not an officially recognized psychological disorder] in which people are unable to internalize their accomplishments…. Despite external evidence of their competence, those with the syndrome remain convinced that they are frauds and do not deserve the success they have achieved. Proof of success is dismissed as luck, timing, or as a result of deceiving others into thinking they are more intelligent and competent than they believe themselves to be.” Yup, that’s me. It is especially common in graduate students – yippee! I wonder if I will ever grow out of thinking I am an idiot. Probably not. But at least I have reached the point where instead of me drawing the curtain on my dreams and aspirations because I feel as though I am not capabale, I am now determined to push on and keep trying no matter what. If I am not good enough or smart enough, someone is going to have to tell me that – I will not initiate the giving-up process!

However, this syndrome, “in which competent people find it impossible to believe in their own competence, can be viewed as complementary to the Dunning–Kruger effect, in which incompetent people find it impossible to believe in their own incompetence.” I must say that I would rather be competent and not realize it than be totally incompetent and not realize that!

In any case, now I need to write my final paper -- before I leave for Maine tomorrow morning. Ten pages stand between me and "freedom" (a weekend away, followed by summer classes). Wish me luck….

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Ah, the end of the semester. That painful time of year when I invariably feel terrifyingly unprepared and in possession of mental faculties that are woefully inadequate for the task of a career in academia. And those feelings come on the good days, when I am not kicking myself for not starting to study and write papers much earlier in the semester, and convince myself I am going to fail everything and lose my scholarships.


About this time of year, I also usually have a recurrent fantasy of running away to Wyoming. I have never been there and don't know anyone who lives there; I think it's the "cowboys and open spaces" thing that gets me. But I have to say that though I definitely wish it was Sunday already, by which time everything will be done one way or another, I have not been as tempted to flee to the airport. Something has shifted for me in these last few months. Though I still feel inadequate, no longer is that something from which I want to run away. I have quit before, in life. I have run into hard times that caused me to hide in bed, use drugs, or just plain ignore the problems in the hopes that they would just go away. Sometimes it worked, to be honest. Given enough time, most problems will eventually fade away. But they will not be resolved or surmounted.

In my end-of-year terror, I could pack up my things and go home to California. Then I would not have to deal with these papers; but that would not solve my problem. It would not enable me to push through the problems, learn from them, and gain resources to cope with them the next time they occur. I have a life now that is worth fighting for, and a potential future that will never be transformed into act unless I fight.

I have a bad habit of being a quitter. I used to smoke more than a pack of cigarettes each day, and grew disenchanted with the habit long before I ever seriously thought about quitting. I just thought smoking was part of who I was. The thing that kept me from trying to quit for all those years is that I didn't think I would succeed. I thought it would be too hard, and I didn't want to try because I was convinced I would fail. And I didn't want to admit to myself or others that I failed at something, or that I wasn't capable of doing something, so I just didn't try -- and I convinced myself that it didn't matter.

I frequently find myself tempted to do the same with academics. I don't think I'm smart enough, and I don't want to admit to anyone that I am not smart enough, so I change my goals to something I know I can achieve. I am afraid to test the limits of my abilities; afraid of failure, afraid of looking stupid, afraid of realizing that I'm not all that and a bag of chips. (To clarify, I don't really think I am all that and a bag of chips.)

Last week at my Olympic weight lifting class, a girl was trying to find her maxes for the snatch and for the clean and jerk. When she hit a snatch weight that she could not successfully lift, she became very upset -- to the point where she stormed out of the gym and did not return that night. I remember thinking, 'How silly! The point was to find her max, and you can't find your max without failing! Now she has something to work from, so she will be able to improve.' The thing is, while it is so easy for me to think that way when it comes to weight training, for some reason it is not so easy for me to think that way when it comes to intellectual pursuits. Analogizing to the weights situation, of course I need to try things at which I might not succeed; how else will I know my limits, then surpass them?

One of the big components of this, though, is that I also tend to be very undisciplined when it comes to academics. I will spend hours emailing, on Facebook, looking things up online, cleaning my room, organizing my desk, making lunch, taking a shower, stocking up on groceries, etc...without sitting down and studying for any sustained period of time. I think intellectual pursuits and sustained intellectual efforts will help me be a better person, and I think they are higher goods than wasting time on other things; but my actions do not reflect this. I am not sure how to justify this to myself or anyone else. I feel as though if I put in the work, I will learn and I will "get it"; but I don't put in the work.

Hence my stress at this time of year.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Oh, Mothers' Day.

The one day each year when we take time to explicitly express our appreciation for our mothers, and for all the things they do for us the other 364 days out of the year. I think of Mothers' Day like a birthday; one's appreciation does not remain confined to one day of the year, but setting aside dedicated time for appreciation helps focus our attention on the things we often take for granted.

I also always associate Mothers' Day with spring; this is usually when the days are already getting long, and summer is just around the corner. It is a time of new hope, of lightness of being, of fresh chances. For me, days of appreciation are just that: fresh chances. Opportunities to be more reflective and mindful of the things I too often take for granted, like hitting the reset button on life, or on one aspect of life.

My mom and I did not get along when I was in high school! Let me rephrase, actually, because that previous sentence makes it sound as though we were two skirmishing teenagers. To say 'I was a self-conscious, self-centered brat, and made some poor choices that affected our relationship negatively' would be more accurate. Ten years after high school (holy moley, it has actually been exactly ten years since I left high school at the end of my junior year!), we have a fantastic relationship. The only negative thing about it, as far as I can tell, is that I live so darn far away from her now! :(

I sent her a card, but don't think it arrived yesterday; hopefully it will tomorrow. But I will call her this afternoon to say hi, and to take time to think about her and let her know how much I appreciate her presence in my life. Twenty six (almost 27!) years of love, support, and devotion...that is impressive. Much, much love to my mother and all mothers today.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


In keeping with my recent mindfulness about being a good example to others, and to deliberately choosing how I want to live my life, I have been thinking about the significance of being seen as a representative of some group. Two recent examples come to mind, but I will start with my experience as one of six American students at an international school, some ten years ago. I never gave much thought then to how I acted, and scoffed that people should understand that we are all individuals and not weigh us down with the baggage of acting as a representative of an entire country. How could I, a then-seventeen-year-old from California, represent a country of 300 million? So, in my adolescent surliness and self-centeredness, I did my own thing and never gave it any thought.

Fast forward to now, ten years later, and I still have vague feelings of discontent when I think of people from Malaysia, because my Malaysian roommate made common life, let's say, challenging. (Let's leave aside for now the fact that I'm sure I made life challenging at times, too!) And I still get warm, fuzzy feelings when I think of people from Singapore, Colombia, Denmark, Canada, Lesotho, etc...because the students I met from those countries became some of my best friends.

Is this fair? Not really. And I shudder to think of the impression I gave my fellow students of Americans -- though thankfully, I think my failings were balanced out by some of the other American students there. At least I wasn't the only one! My point is that it is natural to base an opinion of a group on whatever information one has. Sometimes, that information comes only from one person -- a representative -- and even if the person forming the opinion knows full well that an entire country or group of people cannot be fairly judged by just one person, at least some instinctive feeling will generally remain.

Someone, I don't know who, said to be careful the way you live your life, for you may be the only Bible a person ever reads. I think of this often when I hear of Christians being hateful. Will people recognize us by our love? Or by our hate?

A few weeks ago, I was at a gym class, wearing a NorCal SusCon t-shirt. I attended the first annual Northern California Suspension Convention a few years ago; it was an occasion for people to engage in body suspension and meet others also interested in the same thing. Body suspension is heavily related to the body modification world, and it is a pretty fringe activity. Some would say it's downright weird. In any case, I know that whenever I wear the shirt, which has logos for various piercing shops and hook manufacturers, people may ask questions and I should be prepared to give intelligent, thoughtful answers. That day, a man who was also in the class and was probably in his 50s, asked me what a "SusCon" was. I answered him, then he asked, "Oh, that's like an S&M thing, right?" It's not -- though there's no reason it couldn't be -- so I explained that it was more related to the piercing world. To be honest, I did feel a bit uncomfortable at his S&M question -- but he was asking from a place of honest curiosity, not any malicious intent. And when I step forth into the public sphere wearing a shirt like that, I have an obligation to respect the questions of the people I encounter. One of my favorite professors in grad school continually inveighs against obscurantism of any kind. So I have to entertain people's legitimate questions. Otherwise, how will they learn? What would have happened if I had thrown out a flip answer, or treated this man like he was doing something wrong by asking questions? He would likely have come away from our interaction feeling like people who engage in body suspension are pretty rude, or weird, or just not very welcoming. That is not the face I want to put on the body modification community.

Similarly, I received a message yesterday from one of my Facebook friends, who had noticed that I was recently confirmed into the Catholic faith. He asked if I would mind sharing with him my decision to become Catholic, why I chose the Catholic Church, and something about my reasoning and faith journey. He ended his message with a remark to the effect that he knows we are relatively casual acquaintances and that religion is a highly personal matter, so he would understand if I did not feel comfortable sharing that information with him.

Of course I will be happy to share that information with him! (Probably after final exams, when I have time to sit down and write a proper, well-thought-out email.) If I believe in the value of the Catholic Church enough to want to become a fully participating member, I should darn well be able and willing to explain it intelligently to people. Who knows, maybe it will make enough sense to him that he, too, will seek to learn more about the Church, and maybe even become a member himself. Or, maybe it will inspire him to learn more about Christ; or God and religion in general. At the very least, he will hopefully come away with the impression that the Catholic Church has many things of great value, and will think more positively of its members. If I don't respond in an intelligent way, maybe he will think the Church is irrational and only for unthinking people.

Be attentive. Be intelligent. Ask questions to grow in understanding. If I am called to do all these things, so too must I respond to others positively when they do the same.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


On Friday night, I finally became a full member of the Catholic Church.

Baptized in first grade shortly before my First Communion, I was never a practicing Catholic. To be more precise, I intended to be a practicing Catholic for a full two weeks after my First Communion. I was fired up about the faith -- as fired up as a mostly clueless first grader can be, anyway -- and told my Dad I wanted to go to Church every Sunday. Bless his heart, he assented and took me for two weeks in a row. The third week, he came into my room to wake me up for Mass. "Don't you want to get up so you can get ready to go to Mass?" he asked. "No," I replied, "I think I'm going to sleep in today." And that was the end of that.

Fast forward to a year or two ago, and the tentative, halting way I found myself attending Mass on an occasional basis...then less occasionally...then semi-regularly...and now, almost always. When I entered grad school, I figured that since I planned to study and teach Catholic theology, it was about time I got confirmed, or "became fully sacramentalized," as I heard an acquaintance refer to the process. Friday was the culmination of that process.

As usual, of course, I was self-conscious and worried about standing up in front of a whole church full of people, worried about whether I had gotten dirt on my skirt, and half-convinced I was going to slip on the wood floor and fall down the steps while walking back to my seat in the pew. That is typical of me: even knowing the ceremony was not centered around me and all but a handful of people had no idea who I was anyway, I still feared everyone was looking at me and would notice if I did something wrong. But the auxiliary archbishop's homily was fantastic, and put me at ease -- or at least got me out of my head enough to realize the silliness of my self-centered fears. It encouraged us to shine as lights for other church-goers, and to model Christian living for Catholics and non-Catholics alike. This reminded me that my Confirmation is not just about me; it is about the body of the Church as a whole. And by living a spiritual life centered in the Church, I can bring the light of Christ to those who do not believe, or marginally believe but do not practice their faith.

Living for the greater glory -- for God's greater glory -- isn't that what this life is all about?

Choosing the good.

Or the bad, as the case may be.

In Edmund Hill's 1991 translation of De Trinitate, Hill writes in his introduction to Books IX - XI, "the whole virtue of Augustine's structure of the psyche is that it is pregnant with dynamic possibilities; it is in constant movement, either in the right or the wrong direction" (261). I have heard variations on this before, but it always makes me pause. We are always moving either toward the good or toward the bad. No decision I make is neutral. This is not to say that out of all possible options in a given situation only one is toward the good, while the rest are toward the bad. But it does lend a certain gravity to my decisions. If I choose to eat that one remaining brownie for breakfast, is that moving me toward the good or toward the bad? If I pad my hours for work and claim that certain tasks took me longer than they actually did, am I building up my bank account at the expense of my soul?

Someone asked me a few days ago if anything has changed for me since beginning grad school and studying theology in a more comprehensive, systematic way. Absolutely, I told him -- and I'll be so bold as to state that if the way I see and interact with the world had not changed since coming here, that would raise serious questions about my suitability for this program. I told him things matter more than they did before: it really matters whether I go to Mass on Sunday; it really matters whether I take the Lord's name in vain; it really matters whether I am attentive, intelligent, and loving.

In the grand scheme of the universe, my life is barely a speck of time. I can be mindful of each moment, or I can let the hours slip away unnoticed. Now, I write this after a day of puttering and not doing much of anything, so I have to stress that I am not trying to portray myself as a perfectly mindful, focused human being. I am not even imperfectly mindful most of the time! But at the very least, I am generally aware that my life should not be so. I find it difficult to write about mindfulness and spirituality when those qualities are so often missing from my life. They are honored in the breach. Except I think the more I write about mindfulness, the more I remember to be mindful. The more I remember to focus and breathe, the less caught up I might get in frivolous distractions. I am all in favor of frivolity, as long as it remains garnish, not the main course. Sugar on the strawberries, sure. But not the strawberries themselves.

Of course, I have spent much of today avoiding eating the strawberries, so to speak. But God is here, and I am conscious of His presence. Have I chosen the good or the bad? A little of both. Here's praying that my consciousness grows and that my will becomes strong enough to live up to its demands.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Love your enemies.

I woke up this morning to find my Facebook feed lit up with the news that Osama bin Laden has been killed. Thankfully, most of the status updates were not of the celebratory type, though there was a particularly egregious "Got 'em! USA, Stopping terrorism since 2001!" post. Leaving aside the inaccuracy of this statement -- we were struck by terrorists in 2001 and did not manage to "stop" Osama until this weekend, ten years, thousands of lives, and untold more hatred sown later -- many of my Facebook friends are fellow theology students who tend toward the more stereotypically liberal, friendly Christianity than the stereotypically and often unfairly caricatured conservative, "Jesus is an American warrior" type. (More on this later.) In any case, I was at least relieved that I did not have to stomach celebrations of death on top of news of death this morning.

The Gospel commands us to love our enemies. Even the tax collectors love their friends; but Christians are called to a higher standard, to love our enemies as well as our friends. There are no footnotes explaining that it's okay to hate our enemies and celebrate their deaths if they are really bad people. The command is simple: love your enemies.

Does this mean we have to be pushovers and not stand up for ourselves when someone is trying to harm us? Some would disagree with me, but I don't think so. I attended a panel discussion on just war theory at the University of San Francisco a few years ago, and then-Msgr. Robert McElroy used the example of the Good Samaritan to illustrate his position. In the biblical story, the Samaritan happens upon the man who has been beaten after the robbers have already left. But what would the appropriate response have been if the Samaritan had witnessed the attack? Would it have been to stand back and watch the man be beaten and robbed? I follow Msgr. McElroy in asserting that the appropriate response in that situation would be for the Samaritan to intervene to protect the accosted man, even if that meant he would necessarily have to injure the robbers as a result.

I see two main objections to this analysis. The first is that maybe the Samaritan would not be able to prevent the attack, and his attempted intervention would only result in himself being injured or killed. The second is that this reasoning can be stretched and abused to justify preemptive strikes that are really offensive rather than defensive. Both criticisms are valid. However, I will set them both aside for now since neither applies to the situation that inspired this post.

My distaste for celebrations of bin Laden's death does not arise from a conviction that bin Laden was a good person, or from a belief that the United States should not have taken steps to protect itself and prevent future harms. It arises from a basic conviction that an unnatural death is never something to be celebrated. It is always, if not a tragedy, at the very least a sad occasion. A bad man died; but how many thousands of other people also died unnatural deaths in efforts to bring about this one? His death is a reminder of all those that have occurred both at his hands and in the name of the War on Terror.

Now, a note on the liberal/conservative stereotypes. A comment on another celebratory status update read "man im glad to hear some patriotism an not some liberal [rhymes with "ducks"] lol." Looking at my friends' updates, those celebrating bin Laden's death are mostly conservative Christians, including Catholics; and those decrying the celebratory atmosphere are mostly liberal, including many who are not particularly religious, if at all. Thus it happens that those celebrating bin Laden's death are the most vocally anti-abortion, while those cautioning against the celebration thereof are perhaps on the whole more likely to be pro-choice. Interesting, no? Broadening this to thinking about the nation as a whole, I think I can safely assume that this divide in attitudes would hold true for a reasonably significant majority of the population. Obviously, not everyone strives to align his/her life with the Gospel. But from a Christian standpoint, this makes no sense. How can people be against celebrating bin Laden's death, but be in favor of killing unborn children? Yes, there are the "babies are innocent/bin Laden was not innocent," and the "it's a woman's body, and she gets to choose what to do with her own body" arguments; but if we look deeper to the actual fact of the deaths themselves, inconsistency abounds.

"Love your enemies" is biblical. "Respect for life from a natural birth to a natural death" has entered my knowledge specifically through the Catholic tradition, but I do not doubt that non-Catholic Christians and non-Christians can also assent to this. Though it may be difficult, let us use this occasion to remember and mourn the death and evil that are so prevalent in our time, in all their forms and whatever their causes.

I will end with a quotation lifted from a friend's status update:

"Unpopular and difficult though it may be, let us never celebrate or equate with justice the death of an individual himself but unabashedly rejoice in the end of his evil efforts, particularly in this Easter time. May we be ever vigilant against the allure of 'justified' hate which inevitably soils the very good it seeks to restore and tears our own hearts only further asunder."


Sunday, May 1, 2011

Daring Baker!

I joined the Daring Kitchen a few weeks ago, and just saw May's Daring Baker Challenge recipe! It is a secret until the "reveal date," which is May 27th, so I can't spill the beans here -- but I promise it will be a fantastic creation! Stay tuned, as I will be posting pictures of the finished recipe, along with a descriptive blog post, on May 27th!

For more information on the Daring Baker and Daring Cook challenges, visit!

Sunday, April 24, 2011


My favorite part about tonight's Easter Vigil Mass, as with the service I attended last year, was the Litany of Saints. If I can link correctly, you will be able to find a great version here. The community of saints has become increasingly important to me over the last few months -- not much time, I know. I just think the idea of having an entire community of people, ancestors, saints, holy people, scholars, martyrs, pastors, parents...everyone from Jerome and Augustine to Isaac, Sarah, and Abraham...Prisca and Aquila...Peter, Paul, and Andrew...all the apostles...Mary Magdalene and Veronica...and countless others throughout the ages...all praying for us, for me -- is beautiful and powerful.

As I waited for the Mass to start tonight, I thought, 'A man died nearly 2000 years ago...and here we are today. In this church, at this school, with my life's work still stretched ahead of me, vaguely shimmering in the distance, all because of a man who died on a cross.' More than a mere man, of course; he was a God-man. But still, a man.

I panicked tonight as I saw an older, raggedy-looking man walk down a side aisle in the church. I panicked because my first thought was, 'I don't want him to sit next to me; he looks a little odd and maybe unpredictable.' But not only because of this thought -- the true source of my panic was a realization that if I do not treat people as though they are Jesus...if I am not welcoming to those I consider the least...and those who are the least...those who are or might be hurting, scared, frustrated, lost...I will go to hell. "What you did not do to the least of them, you did not do for me." Am I welcoming to all? Or only to those I deem worthy? Smart enough? Possessing of adequate social graces?

This is a hard saying for me. I like being comfortable. I like being able to reasonably predict how people are going to act. As much as I want to stretch my comfort zones, I am scared to do so. But God doesn't care whether my reason for giving someone the cold shoulder is shyness or disdain. He cares that I give someone the cold shoulder and make him/her feel unwelcome, period. And my thoughts are all known to God, too, which means that I have to work at changing my thoughts themselves, not just at putting a believable smile on my face, sucking it up, and doing God's work while wishing I didn't have to.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011


Watching the Boston Marathon yesterday was incredibly inspiring. The wheelchair and elite athletes first, then the mere mortals, most of whom can run an entire marathon at a faster per-mile pace than I can run for just one mile! It gave me something to aspire to; not for next year, but maybe in two or three years. Maybe.

Spending time and sharing the spectating experience with friends was an incredible gift. From the one I first met nearly eleven years ago to those I have met in the last few months, they all add joy and purpose to my life, and support my motivation to chase dreams and achieve goals.

And how perfect is that -- to be surrounded by people who push me to be better, to transcend myself and my self-imposed limitations? Maybe they think I am smarter and more fit than I am, or maybe I don't think I'm as smart or as fit as I am -- or as I can be. Either way, they invite me to achieve more than I thought possible.

I am incredibly grateful to have them in my life.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Margaritas in...

Pound cake? Check.

I intended to make margarita cupcakes, but found a lemon pound cake recipe, have really cute mini loaf pans, and thought I could just sub out the lemon for margarita mix. (I was going to be a purist and mix my own tequila:triple sec:lime juice, but given the cost of tequila and that I don't really drink it...I figured pre-mixed was a much more cost-effective way to go. I put 3 tbsps of margarita mix (yes, the mix is alcoholic) in the batter, and didn't really get much of a margarita flavor. I mean, it tastes good, but mostly lemony and a bit sweet -- definitely not like tequila at all! Then, I poked holes in the top of the loaf with a toothpick and brushed more margarita on top; it made the loaves nice and moist, but still no bite. I want something with a little bite to it so I can roll the rims in a bit of salt! Every bite should be like biting into tequila-y, lime-y goodness -- not like taking a shot of tequila -- but I'm not there yet.

I also tried making a margarita curd, but put too much sugar in it; I should have reduced the amount of sugar, because I was following a lemon curd recipe. Again, it tastes really good, but too sweet and not like a margarita. Hmph.

So, back to the drawing board. I might have to suck up the cost and go buy a small bottle of tequila, at least to brush on top of the cupcakes, when I try them again tomorrow. And I'll buy some limes, and add some zest to the batter...and definitely reduce the sugar in everything.

The good baking news for today is that my second recipe, from the Flour Bakery cookbook, just came out of the oven and looks delicious. I wanted something breakfast-appropriate that could double as a vehicle for all the jam I canned last summer, so I baked a bran-raisin muffin recipe in mini loaf pans. Super cute, and more surface area for jam!

I think I may be done with baking for the day, unless I make the pate brisee for home made pop tarts a bit later this evening. I will probably end up making it tomorrow, so I can actually get some schoolwork done today. I was going to tackle brioche, but don't want to end up with more baked goods than I can eat! Though I am sure no one would complain if I brought some to school on Tuesday....

Friday, April 15, 2011

Testing the photo-uploading process with a picture of the lemon buttercream layer cake I made for my mom's birthday last weekend....

A beginning.

After hearing me wax eloquent about my plan to concoct margarita cupcakes for marathon Monday, a friend asked me tonight if I had a baking blog. I told her I do have a blog of sorts, but am not very good at writing in it...and my food photography sucks, which does not help matters. But I started thinking, why the heck not just go for it? As the name of my blog implies, this will not be only about baking; but baking certainly occupies a significant role in my life, so will likely also play a central role here.

Tomorrow morning, ingredients. A lack of butter and eggs makes baking difficult. Tomorrow afternoon, pop tart dough. And possibly brioche dough. As well as a trial run at margarita cupcakes. Yes, with salt around the rim of the frosting.

And, of course, Augustine will require my attention. De Trinitate, go!