Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Direction

Oy vey.  I haven't written anything in a long time, I know.  Partly because I've been hiking like crazy,but mostly because...I don't know what to write.  I feel like this blog has no focus, no purpose.  What to do?

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Birthday Wishlist


I'm not usually a huge fan of beaded jewelry, but I am so digging the amazing beadwork of Balanced on Etsy. It's tasteful and painstakingly intricate. My birthday's coming up, anyone care to get this necklace for me?

And, you know, just on the offchance you want to send me something, I would also love a dSLR camera, a new bike and a hiking backpack...

Friday, June 17, 2011

Booze and Baked Goods

Father's Day is coming up.  You know this already.  I know you've got your card and your fancy tie/fishing lures/season tickets wrapped and ready to give to your daddo on Sunday.  Good for you for being so prepared.

I love my dad dearly.  I think I'm probably more like my dad than my mom - I love art, I'm usually willing to try something new, I procrastinate like nobody's business.  Just like my dad.  Of course I'm also neurotic like my mother...anyway.  For Mother's and Father's Days I typically pay for dinner and an activity, and I give gifts on birthdays.  This year my dad and I are going out for Indian food and then watching a film at the Tivoli (an indie theater, for those non-Denverites).  I also baked him the Beer and Honey Spice Cake from Joy the Baker's blog, because we both love beer and spice cake and I REALLY love Joy the Baker.  Once again, for better or worse, I tinkered with the recipe.  Here's Joy's original:


3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon all-spice
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 cup honey
12 ounces (1 1/2 cups) pale ale beer or honey beer
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9x13-inch (don't use anything smaller, seriously) pan and set aside.
I a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fit with a paddle attachment, cream together butter, sugars, spices and lemon zest. Mixture may look crumbly, but mix for about 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition.
Beat in the lemon juice and honey.
Add the flour mixture and beer. Alternating. First add a third of the flour mixture, mix. Add half of the beer, mix. Add the second third of flour, the rest of the beer. Mix. Then finally add the last third of the flour. Beat the batter on high speed for 30 seconds. The batter will be loose and smooth.
Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the upper third of the oven for 45-50 minutes, or until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.

I basically followed the recipe, but I used about a cup and a half of whole wheat flour (I love the texture but some people might prefer white whole wheat) and reduced the sugar a bit: only a quarter cup white sugar, about two tablespoons less brown sugar, and maybe two to three tablespoons less honey (this last one was an accident though - I ran out).  


Oh, and I used a Double-Wide IPA from Boulevard Brewing, which is a really hoppy beer.  That's important to me.  The beer, I mean.


I think it turned out pretty good, sweetness-wise, but I might keep all the honey if possible next time. Oops.  It's a teensy bit dry, too, probably because of the honey and also probably because I don't have a 9x13 inch cake pan so I used a 9x9 and a loaf pan.  Also oops.  You can't really taste the beer, but Joy's right - it rounds out the flavor and you get that hoppiness in the finish.  I love hops.  Just saying.

Still debating whether to frost this thing, and still debating whether or not I should make my dear old dad a card.  Or buy him a tiny gift (his birthday's in August).  I am LOVING my basil plant, so maybe that?  After all, who doesn't love basil?  Communists, that's who.  Mine is coming along nicely and smells soooo good.



Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Inspiration and Cliches

I'm watching Eat Pray Love on (stolen) Netflix Instant right now.  I don't care for the movie so much, but I do love the book...or I did, before I lent my copy to a friend and never saw it again.  But before the book went MIA I read it several times.  It inspired me.  And right now, even though it doesn't really compare, the movie is inspiring me.

Sadly, this almost makes me feel bad.  Being inspired by the movie where Julia Roberts travels like a free spirit and eats plates upon plates of pasta seems so cliched.  And I hate feeling like a cliche.  Writing a blog makes me feel like a cliche.  The fact that I bought a straw fedora from Urban Outfitters makes me feel like a cliche.  Sometimes even my love of art makes me feel like a cliche.

I guess the two important questions here are: 1. WHAT, exactly, is so cliched about these things?  And 2. Why do I care?  Aren't I supposed to be taking the "f*ck it!" mentality that I wrote about earlier?  If something inspires you to be the person you want to be, does it matter where that inspiration came from?  And even if you aspire to be one big cliche and that's what makes you happy, that should be okay, right?

The thing is, I really did love that book.  It didn't make me want to run away and get my fortune told by a medicine man and find love in a play-by-play recreation of Elizabeth Gilbert's life (although it did for a lot of women) - but it did make me want to get out of my dead-end job and do something great for myself.  And you know what?  I DID it.  After reading that book at a low point in my life, I bought a ticket and went to France and Nepal and, yes, Bali.  And it was amazing.  So who cares if that impetus came from a bestselling icon for middle-aged American women?  It inspired me to live a dream of my own creation...

Ulu Watu, Bali

Me, in one of the ancient meditation caves at the Holy Water Temple.

Inland Bali.

Buddhist stupa in Kathmandu, Nepal.

Prayer wheels at Sawayambunth, Nepal.

View of the Himalayas from Nagarkot.

Friends from all over the world I met in Kathmandu!

La Tour Eiffel, old friend.

And right now, cliches be damned, the movie is inspiring me to break free and not fall victim to the mundanity of everyday living.  Not that I really consider that a problem now, but, you know...I have been wanting to visit Turkey.

And you know what?  I LIKE that straw fedora.  F*ck it!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Adventures in Baking

Hola muchachas. I hope that was appropriate.  I don't speak Spanish.

I baked you some bread yesterday, but I'm kind of afraid to share it because...well it's not that good.  I mean it's not bad.  I like it.  I just think you might be a little disappointed.  Give it a try though.

Basically I tried to healthify a recipe from Joy the Baker for zucchini-sweet potato bread.  If you have no visited Joy the Baker's blog, I HIGHLY recommend it.  That girl is hilarious, and the recipes look all types of delicious.  Next on my personal docket of things to try is the cinnamon sugar pull-apart bread and the honey beer spice cake.

My kitchen.  With that awesome Anthro towel.


But this time I made zucchini-sweet potato bread.  Here is the original recipe from Joy's blog:

2 cups all-purpose flour (she used 1 cup all-purpose and 1 cup whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves (the nutmeg and the cloves are optional)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups sugar (she used 1 cup granulated sugar and 1 cup brown sugar)
3/4 cup vegetable oil (she used 1/2 cup oil and 1/4 cup apple sauce.  Less fat.)
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cup grated zucchini
1 1/2 cup peeled and grated sweet potato
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup dried cranberries (optional)
And this is how I changed it:
2 c flour (1 c all-purpose and 1 c whole wheat)
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp allspice
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c sugar
about 1/2 c - 1 T flax meal
3 eggs
1/2 c applesauce
1/4 c honey
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 heaping c grated zucchini
1 c grated sweet potato
about 1/3 c grated carrots
about 1/3 c finely chiffonaded (sliced in ribbons) baby spinach (seriously)
1/2 c dried cranberries
Same baking instructions applied:  mix dry ingredients; beat wet ingredients, then add veggies; combine the two and fold in cranberries.  Then bake in a buttered, floured bread pan at 350 for about and hour or until toothpick comes out clean (Joy said an hour and 20 minutes).
Looks good, right?

My bread isn't actually bad.  It's a little nutty and dense, which I like, but not a whole lot of distinctive flavor, I think because I cut back so drastically on the sugar.  All in all not a bad breakfast bread, and it clocks in at about 150-170 calories per slice if you get 12 slices out of the loaf.  Here's a summary of the changes I made, and what worked and what didn't:
  1. Swapping the oil for flax meal (more protein, less calories) and applesauce (less fat).  I would do this again.  As a vegetarian (did I mention I'm a vegetarian?) I need all the protein I can get, and flax meal is full of really healthy omega-3's.  Applesauce adds more fruit to the bread, and I am constantly trying to cram fruits and veggies into my diet.  The flax also contributes to that denseness I like while still keeping the bread moist.  I read the rule is a 3:1 ratio when swapping flax meal for oil, but I did a little less because I was also subbing some applesauce.
  2. Cutting waaayyy back on sugar and using some honey.  I think I would up my sugar next time I make this bread; I reduced it my more than half.  Maybe just another 1/4 cup of sugar.  I'd keep the honey though, I love honey and I'm sure it helped keep the bread moist.
  3. Changing the veggie amounts and adding spinach.  I guess I went into this wanting to shove more vegetables in the bread, but I don't think I actually added much more than the original 3 cups in Joy's recipe.  In the future I would keep the zucchini and 1 1/2 cups and maintain at least 1 1/2 cups of a sweet potato/carrot combo.  I'd keep a little bit of spinach - you can't even taste it and it's healthy...ish.  It might be a negligible amount for nutrition, but I feel better eating the bread.  Bottom line: still lots and lots 'o veggies.  
  4. Subbing allspice for cloves.  This was done out of convenience because I don't have cloves.  No matter.
  5. Not including walnuts.  This was optional anyway and I didn't have walnuts on hand, plus I figured I already had some nutty flavor and healthy fats with the flax.
Yeah that green thing is spinach.  I went there.

Soooo.  That's what's up.  I still don't know why I messed with the veggie measurements so much when I should have just added stuff on top of the original recipe.  Oh well.  That's why it's called an experiment (or rather, I am now calling this an experiment).  Next up I'll try some baller cinnamon bread!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

These Are My Confessions

I don't have an illegitimate child.  I'm not Usher.  But can I confess something completely random?  I sort of love Americana in the summer.  A lot like how I love going to the mall and the blatant consumerism of the holidays. I know, I know, so not like me at all, but there's something so deeply nostalgic about these things that I can't help but immerse myself in the pageantry of the seasons.  I like to think about how the Fourth of July and Christmas must have been in the fifties, when people loved them in an honest red-blooded way before we all became so jaded.  I know I'm totally romanticizing the past, but isn't that what we all do?

Anyway.  I don't know why I was thinking about that, or why I felt the need to bring it up.  Maybe because the Fourth is just around the corner (as is my birthday - send presents!  I'll gladly accept diamonds.).

In other news, I went thrifting on Broadway yesterday and spent a lot of money.  Well I spent like $35, including the bomb-diggity salted butterscotch pretzel ice cream cone from Sweet Action.  Ah. Maze. Ing.  Maybe the best ice cream parlor (parlour, if you're fancy) in Denver...except maybe Liks?  Liks has better ambiance with all the trees and outdoor benches in Cap Hill, but Sweet Action has some crazy flavors (brown butter sage, honey corn bread, whiskey brickle: all amazing.  Avocado, not so much.).  In defense of my spending, I returned a $40 scarf to Anthropologie and I just decided to call it a draw.  Maybe I'm breaking some rules.  So what.  All in all I got three tops, a new (better?) scarf and this rad vase.  Win:


Oh!  And I almost forgot I actually DID go to the Denver Chalk Art Festival last weekend.  All types of awesome going on there.  Don't miss the Cherry Creek Arts Festival or First Friday in July, people!







Oh geez.  I really REALLY need to learn how to format photos on here better.  Bear with me, I'll work on it...

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Measuring Up

I have a confession to make.  I was just looking at photos of my boyfriend's ex on Facebook.  And she's really really pretty.  Eek.

I don't know why I would torture myself like that.  Of course all I can think about now is how she's thinner than me, how her eyes are cuter, her smile is whiter, her cheeks don't pudge out like a four-year-old's.  Mine do.  I have chubby cheeks and a small chin.  I have bags under my eyes a lot of the time and my hair is usually not shiny.

Photo taken by my friend Christine.

Sometimes I take good photos, but it's rare.  Usually it's when there's odd lighting, or I'm really dressed up for a holiday.

My eyes look big here, right?  I'm eating a kiwano melon.

So of course I'm comparing myself to this mystery girl.  She seems nice...even if she can't spell.  But why?  What am I so afraid of?  I already know I'm not the very most gorgeous girl in the world.

Not me.

My boyfriend loves me, and I have lots of friends, and people still tell me I'm pretty on occasion.  Creepy guys even hit on me at bars.  Why am I so worried now?

I'll venture to say a large part of it is momentary panic over eating like an entire box of cookies tonight.  Tomorrow I might not feel so bad.  But I should never feel bad about how I look or who I am.  Neither should you.  I guess I started this post with the intention of saying something inspirational about how we should all love our bodies and go after our dreams and not worry about what other people think, but the truth is I'm still working really hard on that myself.  It's not easy, ladies.  I guess all I can ask is we support one another...

Oh!  I do have something semi-inspirational to write after all.  When I was in Paris a few years ago my roommate at the hostel one night was this fantastic Brazilian architect named Carolina.  We went out to a wine bar and talked shit about the Bush administration.

Also an okay photo with the awkward light.

Sometimes Carolina would bump the table or slosh her drink, but instead of apologizing she'd say "F*ck it!"  She did not care what other people thought.  She didn't mind that people were looking.  It was awesome.  So, dear readers, it sounds crass but: next time you feel like apologizing for something you shouldn't - your weight or your clothes or the time you dropped something - give the naysayers a F*ck It instead (or a Screw It if you're a lady.  I clearly am not).  Deal?


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Spread the Word

Sooo...I am sick.  I am currently missing the Denver Chalk Art Festival and I am MAD AS HELL about it.  On the plus side, I had a fantastic hike yesterday (five miles around Three Sisters in Evergreen) and I now get to eat all the gingersnaps I want for my upset little tummy.  Courtesy of my mother (who did not bake them but was kind enough to buy them for me, along with some crackers and applesauce.  Love you, Mom!).

Anyway.  So I was thinking about my quasi-creative rut yesterday, and how much I've been wanting things lately.  Things things, like a flask for boozin' and a stand mixer for my kitchen, but also not-things things, like more free time and less self-consciousness.  I feel like some people in my life have some of these things, and I WANT them, dammit!

Then I came to my senses.  If I can be honest without sounding conceited, I happen to be very good at recognizing my own flaws and taking responsibility for my own happiness.  I was being silly.  Instead of envying my friends I should be thanking them, rejoicing in them and finding inspiration from them.  Like Christine.  I admire her honesty and artistry and I love how relatable she is on her own blog.

Or Rachel, who is a pistol of a girl and seemingly comfortable in her own skin.  She is a free spirit, in my eyes.  I know she has her insecurities just like the rest of us, but I admire her ability to plunge ahead and be herself regardless.

And there's Ashley, who I always regarded as one of my most sincere friends.  Ashley will always listen to you and will, without pause, let you know when she herself feels inspired by you.  It's very kind.

And my boyfriend, Brent.  He is infinitely patient with me and I have no freaking idea why sometimes.  He is open to any criticism and takes what I say as a means of bettering himself instead of becoming defensive.  Even if sometimes he shouldn't.

Then there's this guy I used to hang out with back in the day, before he moved to South Dakota (weird). He was always trying something new or pursuing whatever he fancied at the moment, be it hockey or cello or playing on a kickball team while drinking beer.  I admire his spontaneity and his genuine appreciation for what life has to offer, even when life is sometimes just a day at a blue-collar job.

I could really go on and on.  None of these people are perfect.  Not a one.  But each of them as something wondrous about them that I can look up to and draw inspiration from.  They should know these great things about themselves, but at the moment I feel too shy to tell them.  Is that cheesy?  Would it be weird?  "Hey, friend, you inspire me oodles."  Awkward?  Maybe I should just go ahead and do it...and if I have to do it then you should too.  Tell someone the next time they're awesome.  Spread the love, right?

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Food Porn

So I guess I technically started a food diet a week or so ago.  Remember that?  Yeah me neither.

I have been failing horribly at eating well.  It's all necessary though: kettle corn and beer at the Rockies game, fries at trivia, dinner out with friends, cookies and scones at graduation, margaritas to celebrate said graduation...oh my.  It's a lot.  I am fat (I'm not really fat).

Anyway, I've also been looking at a lot of food porn - you know, delicious pictures of baked goodies and artful meals.  I mean it doesn't turn me on.  That'd be weird.  It does make me hungry though.  Like reading through the new summer menu at Happy Cakes Bakeshop in Highlands Square.  Or poring over Joy the Baker's blog (how does she do it??).  I can't decide if indulging in my baking desires will make me feel better or worse.  I do know I am SUPER DUPER excited for summer farmer's markets.  Like whoa.

If you're wondering about all this food stuff in relation to the budget, it was mostly pre-budget indulgence, and my food and drinks at trivia last night were financed by the team's gift certificate from last week's win.  So there's that.  I only spent a dollar yesterday on a copy of the Denver Voice (totally a worthy cause), and then gas (a necessity).  AND I even returned a dress I bought a few weeks ago...does that mean I get to add the money I got back to my monthly allowance?


(No.  It does not.)