The only way I know how to survive Death Cold 2012 is with homemade oatmeal and some Jane Austen.
The only way I know how to survive Death Cold 2012 is with homemade oatmeal and some Jane Austen.
I am officially on Day 4 of the worst cold I have had not only in many moons, but probably since Near Hospital Death Scare ’05. I don’t count Kidney Scare ’12 because well, that is a totally different story I may tell at a later day.
I am not deathly ill, but I feel like it. Massive sniffles, horrendous sinus pressure, tired eyes, and general body aches and exhaustion. Damn you cold season. And as such, I have been well, in bed and asleep usually by 8pm each night, if not earlier.
But today is Friday. I am going to live on the wild side and stay up until maybe 10pm since I don’t have to be up until 7am tomorrow for my weekly WW weigh in.
At this point, let’s give a huge THUMBS DOWN to cold and a huge thumbs up to this word:
Lifetime. Holy bananas Batman. I can’t even begin to say how long I have been waiting to hear that word. The two-syllable word meaning I never, NEVER PEOPLE, have to pay again as long as I am +/- 2 lbs of my goal weight at Weight Watchers. I don’t have to PAY anymore, can you say monthly manicures! I sure can.
This also means I have come to the end of the weight loss journey of my entire lifestyle change. And now I start a whole new journey, keeping the weight off. That is the real challenge. How many of us out there have lost weight, only to gain it back. See my hand raised. Yup.
It is so easy to think “awww I’m so cute. Look at all this weight I’ve lost. I got this, psssh I don’t need to watch everything I eat anymore…COOKIE.”
Oh wait…that was me this afternoon.
I digress yet again. Point of the matter is, keeping 65 lbs off my body is going to be the hardest part of my journey. Plus, I have added in the desire to lose a few more pounds, but to replace it with lots of lean muscle. Momma wants a flatter tummy for next summer.
Now, one would think, huh, I just lost 65 lbs over the past 2 years, 7 months, 3 weeks, I think I am going to celebrate with a beer. A burger. A…I don’t know milkshake. And while that last suggestion sounds good (mmmmmm peanut butter chocolate banana milkshake from Peppertree Frosty)…….what? milkshake?
What I am saying is, while most people would splurge on a fatty, but definitely delicious meal, I celebrated with, what I think is, the best meal ever since the creation of well, all things frozen:
I will say right now that Yogurtland is pretty much the most awesome place on Earth. Because:
Basically, I lived off the stuff in college and because it is a HUGE trigger food (i.e. food which causes massive temptation and causes you to eat more than you normally would) for me, I swore it off when I started Weight Watchers 54 weeks ago. But I knew I would go back once I learned how to control my portions and learn that you can have just a little bit and enjoy it just as much as a bigger portion.
Such was learned when my total was only $6 instead of what I used to pay…cough..umm $15. And for those of you who don’t know, at self serve frozen yogurt you pay per ounce.
Which is how I ended up with nearly every tart yogurt flavor on the menu, every fresh fruit except strawberries (allergic), mochi, and to satisfy my love of all things peanut butter and chocolate, a chunk of Reeses, which of course, I saved until the end. Because you know, I wanted to savor it.
But that wasn’t the only thing I treated myself with last Saturday, I also had ummm pancakes and sausage. BUT it was for a fundraiser for El Camino’s Marching Band. So it was uhhh less caloric because I was funding music in schools. Yup. That is what I tell myself anyway.
This is near the delicious frozen yogurt institution:
Awww ain’t he cute. Not enough of a hint?
I get the feeling these are awful hints.
Whoooo wild animals!
But seriously, what better way to walk off pancakes and prepare for frozen yogurt than hiking in 105F heat at the Wild Animal Park….errr wait…the San Diego Zoo Safari Park. sigh. Oh name changes.
Seriously though…(1) I say seriously way too often and (2) Did you know awesome things like this were at the Safari Park:
COME ON PEOPLE! How gorgeous is this? I had no idea it existed since someone who shall not be names *cough*EMILY*cough* always insists on us taking the same walking tour. Holy Conifer Trees! Beautiful. I didn’t even feel like I could stumble upon wild animals in this area of the park. So calming, it smelled of delicious pine, and well…there were bugs, but I got over them. I could stay there all day and just soak up the sights and sounds of the little river…and then hear a random tiger.
And to think, that view is just around the corner from the photo above. I love where I live.
But before I go and despite my horrific head cold and go out with my friends for one last coffee before one of us moves to Africa, one last photo to share. Probably the real reason why I go to the Safari Park as often as I do:
I love elephants ♥
At the urging of several of my coworkers to share my lunch secrets, coming soon will be a series of posts about my favorite quick, healthy, and flavorful lunches. From salads to revamping leftovers there school be something for everyone so no one has to resort to eating out every day.
Sneak Peak Photo: Romaine, fresh pinto beans, and Mexican rice topped with serranos, fresh pico de gallo, and cubed mangos dressed with freshly squeezed lime juice.
I have done a great any things this past week. Posting has not been one of them. Cooking has not been one of them either. I can easily attribute my lack of cooking to the disgustingly hot heat San Diego has been experiencing the past few weeks. Now, I know there are other regions of our world that are much hotter than it has been here, but please. I live in a town with the word OCEAN in it for a reason, I expect nice beachy weather (despite the fact that I hate sand). I do not expect 100+ temperatures. I do not like it, no, not at all.
And yet…I still yearn to move to Florida. I never said I make sense.
So what do you do when it is hotter than the rest of California and you don’t like sand (to be explained on a day when well, I feel like explaining my weirdness)? You bribe your 17 year old sister to go out and do adventure-type things with you.
Me: Let’s go to the zoo.
Emily (looking up from her tumblr with an exasperated face): No. It’s hot.
Me: Let’s use my Living Social deal and go to the movies.
Emily: umm No.
Me: Let’s go to the aquarium.
Emily: I like fish.
For those interested, this is pretty much how every conversation ever goes with her. And half of the time, no one understands us. We like it that way.
So after dragging her away from whatever you do on tumblr, she is way more internet savvy than I am, we packed snacks and left blistery 107F Oceanside for 100F La Jolla. I know, we lucked out man.
Birch Aquarium is one of those places that most people neglect in San Diego because more hype goes to the San Diego Zoo and Sea World. Not that either of those places are bad, I have had annual passes to the Zoo since I was born and I would have them for Sea World too if it didn’t cost me more money than I make in a days work….
BUT BACK TO THE POINT, I love this aquarium. I used to take Emily here all the time when I first learned how to drive, which may be why I like it, but in reality, it is pretty much awesome for the cost of admission. The two of us got in for under $20. I call that a deal.
Plus, you get to see fish, you get to touch things in a tide pool, and you can jam outside with some wind/fancy science equipment that makes noise when you move it.
Can you tell that science is not my forte?
Seriously though, how could you not like a place that has life size whales jumping out of a water fountain. I know I would do just about anything for a pet whale, so this is my cup of tea.
ANDDDDDD, as a locally focused aquarium, many of their exhibits showcase things found right off our shoreline, like this kelp forest.
FUN FACT FOR YOUR MONDAY: Kelp, at the right temperature, can grow 2+ feet per day. PER DAY PEOPLE. Can you imagine. However, if the water is hotter than 62F, it stops growing. Remember this people, you might need it someday.
If you check Birch Aquarium’s website, they have schedules for things such as feedings and talks. We happened to arrive in time to grab a floor seat for a talk and feeding at this California kelp forest exhibit. We got to watch a jolly portly man talk about kelp and fish and then we got to watch divers clean the exhibit and feed the fish. Let me tell you, some of those fish are fisty.
The diver got bit several times. You would think they never eat. SIDENOTE: No divers were injured in the making of this post.
I cannot tell you the wonders of standing by this exhibit. Or really, the number of times I heard GROWN adults scream “OMG HONEY IT’S DOREY. LOOK IT’S DOREY SHE REALLY EXISTS.”
Yes, Dorey is based on a real fish. Her real name is a Blue Tang or Regal Tang.
And yes, you sound really stupid yelling at a poor fish to “stand still” so you can take her picture and send it to all your friends. It would have been much more clever for you to take a picture of a clown fish and post it to Facebook stating: “I found Nemo.”
Or, you could, *gasp* enjoy the entire exhibit for the beauty it was.
But really, that photo there explains it all. I love jellyfish and I love that 17 year old. I pray she never grows old of her older sister.
For more aquarium photos or to get an inside look into my sister’s obsession with dogs, marching band, and the Zoo, please check out her flickr account: poochskieslove. You won’t regret it. I sure don’t every time I want to be distracted.
I have been to more than my fair share of baby showers, not that I am complaining. There is something about babies, their soft skin, the smell of their shampoo and body wash, their smiles, snuggles, and their grogginess after they eat. Oh I love babies. I even love the not-so-attractive side of babies: the burps, the spit-up, the dirty diapers, and the lack of sleep Mom and Dad get.
When my sister had my niece seventeen months ago, I love the nights I took over to let my sister get some extra sleep. I loved my sleepless nights soothing my Little Bean who had a wicked case of acid reflux keeping her up and fussy most of the first nine months of her life. I never complained (much) about the lack of sleep, even if it meant going to my then-current job at The Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf at 5am with little more than a half-hour of sleep the night before. I will do anything for a baby.
But back to baby showers, yesterday we celebrated the pregnancy and impending birth of my friend Melanie’s little girl. Due in just shy of three months, Melanie still have time to savor those last months of pre-motherhood, meaning sleep, childless date nights, and…well I was going to say sleep-filled nights, but I am pretty sure most pregnant women do not have a night of solid sleep.
However, the main topic of interest for this post (I’m sure) relates to this photo I posted much to the horror and delight of my Instagram and Facebook followers on Friday night:
Yes, that is one stick shy of three pounds. Now don’t you worry your pretty little hearts, when I say I used every stick of this butter, I should probably make a note that I ruined 3 whole sticks of butter and 9 eggs in my first baking attempt.
What? Sarah made a mistake? I know, it’s shocking, unbelievable really. But I make mistakes all the time. I can’t tell you how many times I have made silly mistakes while cooking and baking. But let me tell you, I make sure to never make the same mistake twice.
SIDE NOTE: There is thunder and rain at the moment. Let’s take a moment to reflect on the wonderful smell that is rain on hot cement. Breathe deep my friends. Savor that smell. It is quite possibly the best smell on Earth.
Now, back to the baking…let’s move away from the fact that I made a mistake while cooking, and focus more on the recipe itself.
Let’s be honest and up-front here. When it comes to baking, I rarely come up with my own cake recipes. Instead, I, like you, read countless blogs, following the baking adventures of others and following their lead when they find a recipe winner. This brings me to the most delicious Vanilla Bean Cake I have ever eaten thanks to Sweetapolita, who by the way, if you don’t read her blog, you really should. I love her, which in effect, means you will probably love her.
Vanilla Birthday Cake Recipe
(thanks to Sweetapolita for the recipe and her directions which I only slightly edited with my snarkiness):
1 1/2 cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
2 2/3 cups granulated sugar
9 egg whites, at room temperature
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups buttermilk
1 vanilla bean, split & scraped (not cheap, but oh so worth it. I have been ruined for life by vanilla beans)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (get pure people, none of that disgusting imitation foolishness)
(1) Preheat your oven to 350° F and make sure that your oven shelves are in the middle rack of your oven. You will thank me for this. While you are at it, prepare your pans. Sweetapolita uses her batter to make three 8″ x 2″ round cakes. For my baby shower purposes, I used two 8″ x 2″ round cake pans and one cupcake pan (making 12 cupcakes). If you are making round cakes, please grease your entire pan, bottom and sides, with butter. Then line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper. Make sure it is parchment and not wax paper. Wax will melt in the oven. You do not want waxy cakes, no one wants that. THEN, dust the entire pan with flour to make sure all areas of your pan are covered with butter. This is for two purposes, to makes sure you have enough butter and to make sure you can get your cakes out with ease when they are done baking. If you are making cupcakes, this recipe will probably make between 36-48 cupcakes, so make sure you have enough liners.
(2) Using a mixer (either a stand mixer with a paddle attachment OR you can be like me and use an electric mixer because I am poor and KitchenAid mixers are not on my parent’s budget list for my Christmas gifts)…but yes, using a mixer, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until the mixture if lighter in color and slightly increased in volume. This will take about 3-5 minutes. I just set a time and beat it for 5 minutes to be safe. Then lower the speed to medium and gradually add the egg whites. For my egg whites, I separated them all into a big bowl and then let them come to room temperature and poured them into the butter and sugar recipe from that bowl.
(3) Before you start creaming the butter and sugar, like, after you butter and flour/prep your pans, you should sift the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl. Also, in a different bowl, you should wish the buttermilk, vanilla extract, and contents of the vanilla bean together. I also let this come to room temperature, but it is not necessary.
(4) On medium speed, alternate dry ingredients and buttermilk into the creamed mixture, beginning and ending with the dry ingredients. NOW PLEASE, please make sure you do not over-work the mixture. You do not want to upset the gluten in the flour which will make your cake dense and/or tough. If your mixer is staring to strain with the batter, switch to a wooden spoon and gently mix by hand to finish your batter.
(5) Evenly divide the batter between your pans/cupcake liners. For my cakes, I used my digital kitchens scale to make sure each pan had the exact same amount of batter, but you can also just eyeball. Then smooth the tops of the batter to ensure even cooking. For my cupcakes, I use a small ice cream scoop and each cupcake gets just under two level scoops. If you are making cupcakes, never fill your liners more than 2/3 of the way full. Otherwise they may overflow, which isn’t bad, but the tops of the cupcakes might stick to the rest of the pan.
(6) Bake the cakes for about 30 minutes. Sweetapolita says to rotate once after baking for 20 minutes. I didn’t do this, but please feel free to. If you are baking cupcakes, mine took between 15-18 minutes. For either the cake or cupcakes, you can check to see if they are done by inserting a toothpick and having it come out clean (or with a touch of crumbs) OR by lightly touching the top of the (cup)cake and if it springs back, it’s done.
(7) For either your cakes or cupcakes, let them cook in the pan on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Then remove to let cool completely on the wire racks. If you made cakes, you can peal away the parchment at this time.
At this point in time, your house will smell AMAZING. For it, it was just after 10:30pm when everything was done baking and LORD HAVE MERCY, the smell made me feel like I had died and gone to baking heaven. This cake has made a vanilla cake lover out of me. Honestly.
But you can’t have cake without frosting. It is just, well, against the law. For this occasion, I went wild and crazy and wanted two frostings. I live on the edge. Here is what delighted me that late Friday night:
Fresh Raspberry Frosting:
12 ounces fresh or frozen raspberries (I used frozen because well, fresh were way too expensive)
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
4 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups sifted powdered sugar
(1) In a medium saucepan, cook the raspberries over medium heat, stirring often, until the begin to break down. Once they are broken down and saucy, turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, for at least 20 minutes. You are going to want to keep an eye on these beauties. What you are looking for is the the raspberry goodness to reduce by at least 1/2 to 2/3. You want your final sauce to be incredibly thick and a deep wonderful red color.
(2) When your raspberry sauce is at the desired thickness, Pour the raspberry sauce into a fine mesh strainer, which is over a bowl, please don’t forget a bowl people! Press the sauce through. What you want is all the delicious raspberry juice (which will be thick) and none of the seeds. I mean, you could keep the seeds, I just didn’t want them. You are looking for about a 1/3 cup of very concentrated sauce. If you have too much, put it back on the stove and reduce for a little bit longer. Let cool completely.
(3) In a medium-largish bowl, combine the cool raspberry sauce, butter, and 3 cups of the powdered sugar, as well as a nice pinch of kosher salt. Using your mixer, beat over medium heat until well mixed. Then slowly start adding the rest of the powdered sugar. You are looking for a consistency here which makes you happy. I like stiffer frostings so I can pipe them. this however, would be perfect thinner if you wanted to say, use it as a filling, or if you wanted to drizzle it over slices of chocolate loaf…yum. For me, I used about 5 1/2 cups of powdered sugar.
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest (or you could mince your lemon zest like me)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons heavy cream (please use cream, not whole milk)
3 cups sifted powdered sugar
(1) In a medium-large bowl, beat together the butter and lemon zest with a mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy. Slowly start to add the powdered sugar, beating until smooth. At this point it will seem slightly thick.
(2) Add the lemon juice and heavy cream. Now, please do not panic. It will look soupy and watery. Trust me, turn the mixer back on and slowly work up to medium-high speed and beat for one more minute. Your results should be light, fluffy, and oh so lemony-delicious.
Here are what my end results look like:
Look at that gorgeous red raspberry color. And you know what makes it even better…IT”S ALL NATURAL. There is no food coloring added. Isn’t that amazing? Oh the beauties of nature. For my lemon buttercream, I did use a dash of buttercup yellow food gel from Wilton. Let’s also take a moment to behold the beauty of grease-proof cupcake liners. Ahem.
I would also like to add that the cake was a hit. Only one slice is missing here, but let me just say, out of the cake and 12 cupcakes I brought to the baby shower, I only brought two slices home. Let’s also thank Instagram for these last three beautiful photos. I love you Instagram.
It was a High Tea themed party. I do enjoy myself a nice cup of tea, especially in such beautiful china.
I love my niece, don’t you. She didn’t have tea, but apple juice. But still, I’d say it was one successful baby shower.
Growing up, I was the epitome of shy. I could hardly bring myself to go up to the counter at a fast food establishment and ask for ketchup. Every time my Dad made me, I thought the world was going to come to an end. My extreme shyness made making friends extremely difficult. It wasn’t until I was in my latter college years that I finally started coming out of my shell. However, this doesn’t mean that I am a little social butterfly. Throw me in a room full of people I don’t know and well…let’s just say it isn’t pretty. There is sweat, nerves. and fidgety hands involved. Like I said, not pretty.
However, this is the Internet. I have at least a mouse click between us which means, HI, I’M NOT SHY ONLINE. And since most of you probably don’t know me, here are
25 Things About Me that You Probably Never Needed (but Wanted) to Know
1. Unless you count declaring my major midway through my first semester Freshman year of college, I never changed my major. I knew in my heart that English Literature was exactly what I needed to study and love for the rest of my life. It was the best decision I have ever made.
2. I had a pinata at my twenty-first birthday party. I demolished it while wearing 4-inch heels. My family thought it was amazing, I however, have not worn 4-inch heels since.
3. I am allergic to strawberries. Always have been. However sometimes, I sneak in a bite of strawberry ice cream and face the consequences. I love strawberry ice cream.
4. I really dislike beef. But I will eat lengua and cabeza any night of the week. They are my only two exceptions.
5. To me, the perfect beach has no sand. Sand is demonic. This would explain why I avoid the beach like the plague.
6. I know every single word to the following movies: The Little Mermaid, Pride and Prejudice (2005), That Thing You Do!, and Howl’s Moving Castle.
7. I have had a cat calendar every year for the past five years. I love cats.
8. I own three articles of visible black clothing: suit jacket, sweater, skirt. I hate the color black.
9. The only drive-thru windows you will ever see me at are at In-N-Out, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A, and Steak-N-Shake.
10. In reference to the above, the last time I ate McDonalds was in 2005, the last time I ate Taco Bell was 2009. I have never really eaten at any other fast food establishment.
11. I can’t wear fake silver. I turn green instantly. Green skin is not a good look on me.
12. I am a crier. Nine times out of ten, any movie will make me cry. All books make me cry.
13. Speaking of books, I may be an English major, but my favorite author is Sarah Dessen. She writes young adult novels.
14. I am not artistic at all. Unless you count scrap-booking. That’s art right?
15. My favorite cuisine is Mexican food. All the cheese, salsa, tortillas, cheese, rice, spice. mmmmm. I just had a personal moment over here.
16. My two little sisters will always be little sisters. Even if they are 16 and 23 now.
17. I have had two offers of marriage. One from a 7 year old and one from his 5 year old brother. I made a very serious promise that if I am not married by the time they graduate from college, I will marry one of them. I love them, but Lord have mercy, I hope I am married by then.
18. My biggest fear is that I will never find a man brave enough to spend the rest of his life with me.
19. The perfect pizza has four things: dough, sauce, mozzarella cheese, and fresh slices tomatoes. Nothing else.
20. I hate tuna sandwiches, but love tuna melts. Does that make me weird?
21. I can’t spell. At all. Spell check is my best friend.
22. If I could eat self-serve frozen yogurt every day for the rest of my life, I would. It is that good.
23. For the first time in my life, I don’t just weight the amount I put on my drivers license, I weight less. I wrote that weight down when I was 17. I am now 25.
24. I never go out without my hair and makeup done. Even if I am just wearing jeans and a sweatshirt.
25. Bananas and I are BFF. In fact I eat about 4 bananas a day. But at least my addiction is a healthy one.
And to send you off to enjoy the last day of your Labor Day Weekend, here is my dog Cricket. He has a cute butt.