Friday, February 25, 2011

My Mama

We may not get along all the time, but I love my mama like nobody's business.  And yes, I do call her my mama.  No, I am not from the South, or any other region of the U.S. where they say y'all, and hon, and mama, but yes, I do say all of those things.  On a daily basis usually, or at least in my regular vernacular when they are appropriate.  So here's a cute picture I found of me and my mom getting ready to go to her old school's annual mother-daughter dance. 

Aren't we cute? 
I also love the facial expressions in this one. 
 Love you Mom!

Julibean <3

Fill in the Blank Friday

1.   I am currently obsessed with       updating this blog. lol. And baking and nesting the condo.

2.  Today I am    sick of work    because,    it is incredibly boring and it is Friday and I would like to be at home baking.  Plus it's raining, and I never feel like doing anything when it's rainy.  I hate getting the bottom of my jeans wet.

3.  The age I am is    22     and the age I feel is    usually older.  Chris and I are a fairly legit couple in a remarkably adult setup and situation for a couple our age.  We've got the house, the jobs, the cars, the bills, the loans, the wedding, the dinner at home, the wine, the gym, the house guests, the home improvement.  Luckily we're waiting a good 5 years to have any babies, so we have time to enjoy the time we are spending building our lives together.  Sometimes I still feel young and immature when I think of what I want to spend money on and accomplish.  Mostly it's baking equipment, and I'm still not quite ready for my own business, but I'm working on it.  

4.  My favorite place is     the library, my kitchen, the beach house with friends.  I love sleeping in that huge bed, sleeping in, having the sexy time, seeing the light come through the wooden blinds, walking out on the patio to read a book in the sunshine and watch the reeds and grass sway back and forth, bbqing with friends and having a beer and smoking a clove when the sun goes down.  So perfect.

5.  Something I have been procrastinating is    cleaning the condo.  We've been meaning to do it for ages.  The second bathroom is an ungodly disaster and hasn't been cleaned since before Cynthia moved out.  Our bedroom is in serious  need of vacuuming, and the front hall and kitchen need to be mopped.  We also have to sweep up the patio and clean the tea stain that I spilled on the doorstep. lol.

6.  The last thing I purchased was        a mani/pedi at the spa attached to the gym.  I had a giftcard from the in-laws, so I guess I didn't exactly purchase it.  Before that, it would have to be lunch or coffee with Cynthia, and before that, dinner at the bar for trivia and food shopping at the Sam's Club.

7.  The thing I love most about my home is       The way the light and breeze comes in the patio door when I'm baking on a saturday morning or making pancakes for Chris on the weekend.  I am so ready for spring and to re plant some basil and whatever else I can think of that would grow nicely on the patio.  Any ideas?
As always, thank you to the lovely lady over at The Little Things We Do for the questions. 

Sugar Cookie Cutouts

This was the first time that I had ever made sugar cookie cutouts and I had so much fun doing it that I am looking for any excuse to make them again.  Do you need sugar cookies for something?  I'll get a cutter for it and go nuts!  I see them all over the internets, some people even have bakeries that all they do is make cut out cookies and sell them in gift bags and platters.  Some of them make their own cutters and do corporate logos and custom cookies and stuff.  It is so cute and so much fun.  Once I got the hang of the consistency of the frosting, it was easy and very enjoyable.  Only issue.. This makes a huge fucking mess when you're finished.  I found a great recipe for sugar cookies.  I am not usually a sugar cookie person, I think they're boring and seriously lacking in the flavor, texture, and chocolate departments, but these cookies were different.  They were thick and soft and chewy and delicious.  The royal icing added a really nice complement to the cookie.  I made some valentine's day themed ones for Chris.  Too bad it took longer than I had anticipated and I was barely finished with them by the time he had to get on his flight to Florida last week.  However, I brought them to work and they were INHALED.  Seriously, the cookies were all gone before 11 a.m. and there are only 3 of us in the office.  And now for a photo montage:

I also wanted to see how the cookies tasted plain as regular cookies, so I made a tray of those as well.

I didn't actually have a heart shaped cookie cutter, so I did my best to improvise with a teardrop shaped one that I had in my toolbox.  The results weren't too bad, but I did order some heart shaped ones online for the next time.  Fuck yeah amazon prime, you are my goddess.

I also made a bunch of square shaped ones to make into stamp cookies for "love letters".

My workspace, covered with powdered sugar.

Cooking in our kitchen is pretty difficult because we do not have enough counter space.  Also, the really free spot is right on top of the dishwasher, and since I cook so much and the dishwasher is running more than half of the time, it's tricky to roll out dough when steam is like pouring out from under the counter.

I made royal icings and colored them with my gel food colorings.  Note to self: next time, make about 3x as much icing.

Let the cookies cool completely before icing so the icing doesn't melt and run all over the place.  I used this cute little three tiered cooling rack that my mom got for me.  My family knows me so well now that every time I come home or get a visit from a family member, it is complete with little baking gifts.  When I went home last weekend, I came back with a square shaped muffin tin and a can of cherry pie filling.  Love you Nanny!

I saw this idea online somewhere and thought it was so cute.  Much more interesting than just making a billion heart shaped cookies.

I cannot figure out why blogger insists on posting these photos sideways.  They are saved in the proper orientation, but no matter what I try to do, they keep uploading sideways.  But they were the good photos of the cookies, so I'm posting them anyway and if you like, you may turn your head to look at them. 

The aftermath.

Like an idiot, I was so tired after making all of these cookies all day that I left the dishes for the next day.  I knew that I was making a mistake, but I just didn't care at the time.  It did take a long time to do the next day, but I was surprised at how clean my squeeze bottles came out of the dish washer.  Also, we have the smallest sink in the world.  It is so shallow, it's like impossible to fill a pot with water or do anything in there.

Most of the cookies.

After a while I got concerned that maybe you wouldn't be able to tell that the stamps were actually stamps, so I made a little envelope and a stamp that said love letter.  Can you say overkill?  Haha I'm such a dumb ass sometimes.

Julibean <3

Coffee Cupcakes

Last weekend my co-worker Lauren was celebrating her 50th birthday. Since it was such a big one, and we had a nice long 3 day weekend to look forward to, Cynthia and I decided that we should make her something. Lauren is always drinking coffee and makes several pots a day, so I figured I should do something coffee flavored and since cupcakes take less time to bake and decorate, and are easier to eat on the fly, I went with coffee cupcakes.

 I wasn't all too thrilled with these cupcakes.  This is not a recipe I would make again.  The cake came out a bit dry, and the icing was too thick.  Also, the coffee flavor comes from instant espresso powder.  This is true of a hell of a lot of coffee recipes.  Only rarely do you actually brew a cup of coffee and throw it in (although that is the case in my fudgey cake recipe), but I guess maybe the espresso powder I was using was larger bits than ones I had used in the past, because it gave the icing a real gritty texture, you could literally crunch on it a bit if you got a big piece of a bean in there.  Not exactly the feeling you're going for when eating this kind of cupcake.  I have another recipe for cuppuchino cupcakes that I might try in a bit, and hopefully I'll be able to alleviate that problem in some way.  Maybe I just have to crush/grind up the powder a bit more, or maybe I should go with brewed coffee or instant coffee powder instead of the espresso powder.  I don't think a coffee flavored extract would really give the flavor I'm looking for.  Either way, it was a good learning experience and Lauren seriously loved them.  She ate 2 or 3 in the office and I packed up 4 for her to bring home for the weekend.  She said she ate them all herself and didn't share.  You go girl.

Julibean <3

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ugly/Scary Grandma Thing

I found a picture of that bitch.  Here she is in the dirty Mr. Lin apartment kitchen.  Ahh the good ol days!

Julibean <3

Kitchen Cleanup and Organization

We do not have a very large kitchen and it is fairly out of date, so when my mom gave me my stand mixer for my birthday and I started baking a lot, I began to run out of rooms for all of my tools and attachments.  My ingredients were taking over the pantry, and the appliances were literally running amok around the condo with electrical cords trailing along behind them.  Every time I tried to bake I was running out of counter space.  I am constantly splashing water everywhere because the sink is very shallow and the water comes shooting out very fast and bounces everywhere.  If you have a stack of dishes in there and turn the water on, it will ricochet and fly across the room.  Also the floor is not ideal and the vacuum has a really hard time getting crumbs and stuff off of there, so we tend to sweep up and then mop.  Chris is a beast and broke the first mop we bought, so we had to invest in a heavy duty one for the Sasquatch.  We got a kitchen cart from Ikea to host the majority of my baking stuffs.  I started getting most of my baking supplies in bulk at Sam's Club to save money.  Whatever I can't find there, I usually have to go to Wegman's for, because it's specific enough that Walmart wouldn't have it either. 

Here is the kitchen before and after:

This is what happened after I went to the store with a list that included everything I would need to bake all of the like 50 recipes I had already set aside to test out for their potential sell-ability. 

Well more accurate would be that, this is what happened after I went to the store, put away everything perishable, and whatever I already had a spot for.  This shelf was up when we moved in with a little white desk and chair under it.  It's not really attached to the wall, so if you put too much weight on one side it falls of.  A great place for a blow torch.

Here is the pantry, complete with that huge bag of flour I got at the Sam's Club.
After a few hundred dollars spent on amazon and at bed, bath, and beyond with my stockpile of coupons, this is what we came up with.  I don't have any before pictures of the cabinets, which is a shame because they were quite epically stuffed with thing that I didn't even know we had.  Here is the after:

I labeled my containers with a washable sharpie.  The writing is still on them when they come out of the dish washer, but if you scrub it really lightly with a sponge, it comes right off and can be labeled something different.  So handy!

I'm very excited about finding those chocolate sticks online.  They're what you use when you want to make chocolate croissants, and those were one of my favorite things we made in class.  Cynthia said they were one of her favorite things to eat in France, so making croissant dough will have to be one of the next things on my list.

I had to go online to King Arthur flour to find some of the specialty flours i was looking for.  I was surprised that they didn't have pastry flour in the supermarket, they only had whole wheat pastry flour, which is cool, but not usually what I'm going for.  I got high gluten, semolina, and almond flour online.

Spices are stupidly expensive.  Thank you Alton Brown for teaching me how amazing freshly ground nutmeg is.  If you smell pre-ground nutmeg, and then freshly microplane one, the difference is truly remarkable.  You would think that since McCormick is literally so close that we can smell the spices in the air, that they would be cheaper at the store, but of course that is not the case.  Only one brand of spices (the crazy expensive kind) even carried whole nutmeg and any kind of cardamom. 

My collection of extracts, sprinkles, jimmies, and other random bits including my edible eyeballs.  (for making adorable edible cakes with faces obviously.  I don't just eat eyeballs for kicks, promise.)

The big jugs of oils, and 25 lb bag of AP flour.  The bottom of our pantry is always a mess because we leave the bag of onions on the floor and dry onion skin flies everywhere.

Also, we stupidly opened the rice by the bottom of the bag instead of by the resealable top (we do this all the time), so every time we picked the bag up, we would spill rice all over the floor.  So I put it in that big plastic container you see in the middle. 

The whole setup with my mixer and scale.  Garbage bags and soda on the floor, and my blue cake decorating toolkit with all of my food colorings, tips, and piping bags, etc.  We got two nice garbage cans from BB&B with the store credit we got from returning the wrong sized mixer attachments my mom got me for Christmas.  Thanks Mom!
 Now on to the cabinets:

We used these colorful cups for mis en placing in school.  They're from Ikea and only like a dollar.  I believe they're in the baby section with the tiny little spoons and such.  I got a couple packs of them.  They are great for setting ingredients aside and microwaving butter and such.  Those blue and yellow measuring cups on the top shelf are from my grandma.  They're very heavy and really pretty.  I'd like to use them as decoration some time when we get the chance to redo the kitchen.  Also, they're hiding a pile of old/stained aprons that my great-grandmother made.  Never giving those up.

We have three sets of nested mixing bowls, completely by accident, but it works out pretty well.  One set is plastic, with the largest, and sometimes seriously necessary bowl being that orange one we got for giving out Halloween candy, one ceramic set, and one metal set for double boiling things.  In the back you can see this badass red and white bowl that my grandma gave me, it's heavy but it's so cute with this little handle and spout.  I love it.

I have a collection of 3 springform pans, 4 9" cake pans, one tube pan, 4 8" cake pans, one 6" cake pan, several pyrex dishes, two loaf pans, a popover pan, 2 cupcake pans, 4 mini muffin pans, and an assortment of other mini pans like tiny loaves, tiny bunts, tiny hearts, and mini spring forms from my mom.  There's also 4 glass ramekins on the bottom shelf with our plates, and one 14 or 16" cake pan not pictured here, I forget how big it is really.

Bottom drawer has a pile of washcloths that I got at Ikea.  I've been using them as side towels.  There are those heart shaped cutters I just got, and my set of fondant/gumpaste tools. 

I have since run out of saran wrap and got a bigass roll of it at Sam's Club.  It's seriously huge.  We have a billion more ziplocks currently stockpiled in the laundry room.

An assortment of my baking tools.  My bread knife doesn't have a place in the knife block so I hide it in here.  My siplat hasn't gotten enough love lately, I'll need to break that out soon.  And the always important calculator, thermometers, cookie scoops, assorted cutters, and toothpicks.

The more frequently used kitchen tools are hiding out in the top drawer with our silverware.  I also have a collection of pens, markers, and scissors in here, along with the frequently used corkscrew, bottle opener, and pizza wheel.

We finally got our coffee maker back from Cuisinart.  We made maybe 10 cups of coffee in the thing before it broke.  We had no idea what was wrong with it until like 6 months later we finally got around to calling them and found out that the model was recalled.  They sent us a replacement.  We haven't really gotten any k cups for it, we decided to try to make our own coffee in the little filter thing that comes with it.  We have yet to make a decent cup of coffee in it.  But the thing boils water like a motherfucker.  I drink tea.  We retired the grandma thing that used to hold our spoons in college for a large metal flower pot thing that I found at target which holds our very frequently used tongs, spoons, spatulas, and whisks.

Our beautiful dirty broom next to our garbage and recycling bin.

The crooked shelves that my adorable but not very handy fiance so lovingly put on the wall for me.  Apparently the studs in our outer walls are metal and further apart than usual because the other side is brick.  I think that may just be an excuse because Chris doesn't know how to measure or use a drill properly, but whatever.  I'll let him try to be manly in whatever way he likes until things get so dire that I come over and grab the drill out of his hands.  Here we have my big cake pan, grill, waffle maker, cupcake tower, and other odds and ends.

That blow torch really makes its way around the house.  I'm in love with an ADD kid who likes to pick up random things, specifically semi dangerous things like matches, lighters, blow torches, knives, corkscrews, etc., and then play with them, fling them around, spin them, chew on them, carry them around the house and then leave them in some unknown location that is usually very far from their home. 

This cabinet used to be a mess.  I'm so glad I got a handle on it.

The mixer/liquor cabinet is currently also holding our beer mug and pitcher set, and my hand mixer.

My extra tip set and cake turner are living on top of the refrigerator at present.

Wine and margarita glasses are above the stove.  We break wine glasses like there's no tomorrow.  We had a set of 4 that we bought at the ghetto palace, we also have a plastic one in case someone is very jittery or drunk already.  Then Hannah gave us 4 for our engagement party.  We broke at least two of each of set.  Cynthia dropped and broke one of the second set, and felt bad, so she bought us a third set of 4 glasses.  Now as you can see, there are about 3 left, maybe one was in the wash or something, so 4 or 5 tops.  Probably none of them are matching.  We like our red wine.

This concludes the tour of Chris and Julie's kitchen.  It is on the list of things to remodel, you know, after the wedding, and honeymoon, and a new car loan, and paying off student loans.  We would really like to, probably in this order; rip up the carpet and put down hard wood from the front door all the way to the bedroom doors, put down tile or something in the kitchen, repaint the walls and trim, get a new sink, new cabinets, new counter tops, and eventually new appliances.  I would really love to expand the kitchen into the office/sun room area and have a high counter with bar stools somewhere, but that will not be for a very long time.  After that I'm sure some of our furniture or appliances would need replacing and some of the process would start all over again.  We are very lucky to own our home, these are grandiose desires that will some day, with hard work, come to fruition.  Oh yeah, and I forgot the bathrooms, but, that's mostly just the lights above the sink and a mirror that could be done in a weekend if we were ever really motivated. 

We will probably not get the chance to do nearly half of that before we have a baby or two and need to fix a few things up to sell the condo and buy a real house.  Unless we had a down payment and were able to rent out the condo for profit, but that is even less likely really.  Whew, the day is almost over, and it's time for a mani/pedi courtesy of the in-laws Christmas gift.  So exciting!

Julibean <3

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