Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Pick Me, Pick ME!

From top left; lemon curd tartlets; 4 different tartlets including a traditional frangipan, and blueberry white chocolate cheese pie; my large lemon tart up close!

About 2 weeks ago, I finally fulfilled a long standing aspiration and started some pastry classes at a culinary school here in Boston. I won't be getting a degree or anything at this point, but it's been a great opportunity to take classes from a professional pastry chef and delve into some kinds of baking I've not tried before!

The first week of class was so thrilling to me--I was in a professional kitchen and had anything I could imagine at my fingertips when it came to baking supplies. As we started learning the basics of pate a choux (the dough used to make eclairs and cream puffs) I grew more and more excited to get started. Once the chef let us loose on the kitchen, I charged around with unbridled gusto: I was done prepping my dough before everyone. Done piping. Done making the filling. I asked a bajillion questions, chatted up a storm to my quieter classmates and generally made a scene. At some point, though, mid way through the class, I had a moment. A moment in which I realized I was becoming that annoying person in classes who everyone hates because they're an overachieving, chatty, questioner who spends way to much time joking around with the prof. 

Definitely, not the vibe I wanted to be vibing. 

 I remember those people from college. The kind who caused a collective sigh every time there hand shot up in the air before the professor even finished their sentence. Shudder.

Eclairs and cream puffs from week 1

Last week, I think I reigned myself far enough in as to not be completely annoying. And I even dawdled a little so I wasn't too far ahead of the pack (let's all say overachiever together, now). 

I keep reminding myself that I don't have to be the best at everything. In fact, there doesn't even have to be a scale to measure. I can just have fun, and enjoy all the new and exciting goodies I can now make on the cooking show I pretend I'm on when I'm home alone (let's keep that little tidbit between us, shall we?)

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

What Rebirth?

54 degrees.

A warmth crept over my skin as my friend Virginia and I sped around the Boston Common during our lunch break. My light, grey cardigan the only barrier between my bare arms and the open air.

Was it just 3 days ago that I snuggled inside on my overstuffed couch and watched snow fall? Tiny acrobats flipping exuberantly through the air.

I'm New England's child through and through. I love the cold winter wind whipping through every layer, chilling my bones. I love the fragrant gift of spring, the sticky fingers of summer air fading into the brilliant colors and crisp coolness of fall. I'm sad to see this winter tiptoeing by, barely leaving it's snowy prints behind. 

I longed for snow at Christmas; no palm trees covered in Christmas lights for me. Give me the solid scent of pine and a heap of crystalline snow.

Now, here we are in the depths of January, and it's 54 degrees. The chickadees are out and chirping, trying to tell me it's spring.
"Patience!" I want to tell them, "there's still more of winter, I'm sure of it!"

Don't misunderstand me, I adore those first sweet mornings of Spring. The smell of damp earth exposed to the sun after long, dark months. Birds chattering and twittering as baby buds squeeze out of their mothers' wombs.  But it's the cold of the months before: The creaking wind so bitter you can't feel your face after a moment outside, and icy sleet crusting over every thing it lands on that makes the spring so magical. 
An impossible action.

As Virginia and I walk a final lap around the Common and head back to the office, I can't help but wish (just a little) for a harsh winter wind to begin brewing. To make me long for the respite of spring. So that when it comes, when that next day with only a cardigan arrives it will be glorious freedom. I can throw my arms out, a baby unswaddled, in the warm spring sun and say 

"This! This is what I have endured these long winter months for!"

(For those of you who now think I'm totally insane, let me at least say, despite my desires for a blizzard, like, now; I did enjoy the beautiful spring-y-ness of today!) 

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Sweet Tooth

I've come to the official conclusion that I have a problem.
 I'm addicted to sweets.
And because of an idea that I came up with for my mother, sister, and I, they no longer exist in my daily life. At least for six out of the seven days of my week. 

After seeing a friends mom post  to her wall on Facebook about a "get healthy" challenge, I decide to check it out and thought it would be an awesome idea for my mom, younger sister and I to do. We all wanted to get healthy and lose some weight. Not to mention, it was a competition.

If there is one thing my siblings and I inherited from my mother's gene pool it's her competitive spirit. If you're reading this and doubting how competitive a mother and her children can really be with one another, let me give you an example: One family vacation, I taught my mom how to play the card game Spit. During a particularly violent (er, competitive) game, she clawed my hand "by accident" to take the lead, and actually took a chunk of skin out. 

The moral of the story is that my mother is a crazy person (joking mom!) a healthy love of competition is probably just about the only thing that could galvanize the three of us to action for a healthy lifestyle change.

I like this challenge because it's about more than just losing weight. It's about drinking plenty of water, eating lots of fruits and veggies, and encouraging your teammates. Losing weight is sort of a bonus. 

One of the biggest point earners, though, is a little thing called "No sugary snacks/treats"

"Sure," my confident self thought, "whatever. No sweets is no big deal."
Umm, not so much. When the first week points were tallied, I'd managed to go without out sugary treats a whopping one day, and was embarrassingly far behind the crowd in points. 

Not to be outdone, I've taken to the challenge with a new verve and vigor this week, which means absolutely no sugary snacks, except on the one free day we get a week. I'm only 2 days in and I'm already starting to feel it. It's not as if I spend my life cramming donuts in my face and juggling brownies. It's just the little caramel candy I have from a coworkers candy dish. The mini amaretto brownie square for dessert after lunch. Or a few chocolate chips here and there after dinner. Apparently, though, those little sugary treats pack a big punch. 

 I've always known I have a sweet tooth. Heck, I'd just as soon eat a cookie for breakfast as an egg, but I guess I never realized quite how addicted I was. 

I'm actually having withdrawel symptoms! 

Despite the slight shaking (kidding!) and irritable mood coming from my new sugarless lifestyle, I'm actually pretty excited! Clearly, I've been getting a bit too sugar happy, and I think these eight weeks of sweet fasting might be just the thing. 

(and thank God for that free day once a week!)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

ATL and a Birthday Message

        My heels click furiously on the airport floor as I sprint down the hall toward my gate; coat and bags thrown asunder. "Please, God, let them have held my flight!" I beg half aloud as I skid around a corner.  Gasping in a breath of air, I jog around the maze of chairs and slide into the back of the line of final borders.  Now able to focus, I look in confusion at the departure time on the wall, realizing I inverted some numbers and my flight leaves at 7:54 and not 7:45. My mad dash to the gate? Well, it seems a little dramatic now. . .

       This was just part of the hectic chaos that was my trip home from a fantastic, albeit brief weekend in Atlanta. I flew there for a conference early Saturday morning. We stayed in quite a posh hotel (Umm, hello TV in the bathroom), and overall it was a very renewing weekend. Until my flight home which was filled with delays, minor panic attacks, and the cherry on the top: me almost losing my wallet, only to have it found by my taxi driver who I initially thought might be a serial killer. 

Have ya'll ever been to Atlanta? (that's right, I said y'all) I didn't get much of a chance to explore on the quick trip, but did eat at a fantastic place called The Flying Biscuit. Definitely stop there for a biscuit if you ever make it that way. They were top notch!

 In entirely unrelated news. Last Monday (January 9th) my friend Larry Levi celebrated his 26th (I think?) birthday here in my fair city. As is my custom, I've waited exactly 9 days to wish him a public Happy Birthday here on KatyDidWhat. (And by that I mean, Larry demanded  asked very nicely to be featured in my blog on his birthday. I agreed, and then didn't blog all last week. So here we are!). I've only known Larry for a short time, so I can't wax too poetic about him, but I can say he's pretty hilarious and always keeps me entertained. So, Larry, if you're reading this (and you darn well better be, jeez) I hope you had a glorious birthday week, and that you're 26th year is the most spectacular yet. 
(and if I had a really embarrassing photo of you, it would be posted right here)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Ski (less) Weekend

In White Christmas fashion (mutual, I'm sure), some old and new friends and I headed up to Vermont this past weekend for a little winter fun. The weekend actually was neither white nor christmas-y. But it was in Vermont and we did do a lot of singing and dancing around the farm house we stayed in. Just kidding, mostly we just hung out and ate chili.

On Saturday while the majority of folks were shredding up Mt. Killington in a man made winter wonderland, some of us took a different approach to the ski weekend. We drank tea and explored a cute nearby town. There was knitting, and puzzling and napping. And there was absolutely no skiing. Truth be told, barreling down a mountain side with two fiberglass sticks strapped on to my feet doesn't really sound like a great time (I have no idea if that's what skis are made of, I just made that up. . .)

The farmhouse we rented is a glorious weekend getaway even sans skiing, though. I've stayed there several times in the fall but never in winter. Sadly, only a dusting of snow graced the rolling hills of the property, but it was just as beautiful as ever. And this year, for the first time ever, I actually went and visited the resident horse on the property. Not only that, I patted it. And talked to it. 
And gave it a carrot.

If you know anything about it me, you know that animals--not really my thing. I like zoos and aquariums and animal planet. I don't really enjoy pets though, or having animals in my space. Recently, howewver, a strange change has been taking place, in that sometimes, I kind of actually like animals. Just a little bit. Like when the happy horse who was so friendly tried to eat a button off my coat, and I didn't even really mind. . .

I think I might be coming down with something.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year!

A few months ago, some friends and I decided that, this year, instead of just talking about getting all gussied up and going out dancing or something on New Year's Eve, we'd actually do it.

We settled on the Resolution Ball at Boston's Seaport Hotel, pegged as "the premier New Year's Eve party in Boston"

I was a little concerned when we arrived and were overwhelmed by a smell something akin to Cheese Whiz in the coat check lobby. It soon faded, however, as we headed in for our first drinks and to check out the enormous function room. 

We danced, we sang, we drank champagne and rang in the new year with all the cliche revelry one might expect. And while I had a blast and loved my sparkly dress, I came to the same conclusion I come to every year: Whether you're home on the couch or crammed on a dance floor counting down with half of Boston and The Felix Brown Band, New Year's Eve is pretty over-rated. No matter how great it is (and it was pretty great this year!), it always seems like it should be greater, because it's a new year. But really it's just another midnight, which I've seen more than one of in my short life.

However, because I'm me, and life enjoys more than it's share of good laughs at my expense--the night ended with just a little more excitement than planned.

Somewhere around 1:30 AM, one of my fellow party goers and I decided we'd head to catch the T, in order to  save some cab fare. She was tired from a night in heels, and I was jacket-less, but we figured we'd catch a quick cab ride to the T station and get home from there.
. . .
We didn't account for the fact that it was New Year's Eve and everyone and their brother (literally) was out trying to flag down cabs. Worried we'd miss the final trains and have to take a cab all the way home, we began walking the mile to the nearest station. Hannah limped along in her heels while I tried to warm myself with some mind over matter tricks (it didn't work). We ended up walking all the way to the T, but thankfully made what I think were some of the last trains. Ridiculous? Yes. But you better believe that's  probably the only hype from this New Year celebration that I'll remember!