Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas Music

Here's my Christmas gift to you: an old Fictionist Christmas song from the archives (well, sort of). It remains one of my favorite things to listen to at Christmas. I think because it's one of the few Christmas songs that talks about Christ's birth while also dealing with the listener's relationship to Him in the present. At the time it came out, the idea of not being "confounded" was the perfect word choice to tug at my heart.

Merry Christmas. Thank you, everyone, for reading my blog. I thoroughly enjoy having you all drop in. Here's to another good year of writing and sharing.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Jacob, a Fish Tank, and Two Gallons of Milk Walk Out of a Store

Before my car and I met Jacob, he decided to take a fish tank on a walk to the grocery store. See Jacob didn't have a car and he didn't have whole milk, and the latter of those two problems was something he could fix, but it meant walking to the grocery store and then walking back with the gallons of milk pinching his fingers, which to him was worth it for the luxury of whole milk. 

But he'd gotten tired of the pinching, so he brought the fish tank. Because a strapping young man like him could carry a fish tank full of milk jugs better than he could handle the plastic gallons squeezing his fingers as he walked. It was in this state that some people he didn't know and that I will never meet found him—carrying the fish tank with the milk, successfully, sort of, at least as successfully as something like that can be done. This family saw his balancing act and offered him, his fish tank, and his groceries a ride home. 

I had never heard this story until I read Jacob's account of it on a site called Anonymous Thank Yous, and when I did I cried. 

Jacob wrote it to say thank you to the people who gave him a ride long ago. I'm writing this for the same purpose, because it turns out that the thought of my husband struggling down the street with an aquarium full of milk kills me. It's enough to make me mad at myself, Katie, where were you when you could have been helpful?, even though I didn't even know him then. 

Thank you, anonymous family—thank you for taking care of my husband who has brilliant ideas that are also unusual and who may be the most lovely and wonderful person I have ever met.

This Thanksgiving, consider using Anonymous Thank Yous to thank a stranger who has touched your life. I'd love to read your stories. You can leave a link to your post in the comments here. I'd also love to hear if anyone else has ever decided to carry their groceries in a fish tank. Anybody? Anybody?

Happy Thanksgiving, friends!

Friday, November 22, 2013

So Very Fine

What does this picture have in common with this picture? Guess.

Run out of guesses? Okay, fine. I'll tell you.

The nice man who took my wedding pictures (including generously lending me the twenty dollars in his pocket so I could have a carriage ride) is also the same fellow making these gorgeous iPad stands—the Coburns.

Last year, Levi (kind photographer man) and Eric, both former coworkers of mine, launched their first Kickstarter product, two minimalist iPad cases, which set off the Fine Grain brand with a bang. The Coburns, like their predecessors, are clean, beautiful, and simple. I don't have an iPad, but if that day comes, I'm heading straight to Fine Grain.

I can't believe I forgot to mention their product in my recent post about my addiction to Kickstarter, especially since most good things I know about Kickstarter come from watching Levi and Eric's success there.

I don't highlight them here because they desperately need your support, but rather because it's such a great product that they don't. Within a few days of launching, the product was already fully funded.

Now, it's just a matter of jumping in and snagging a set before they're all gone: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/finegrain/the-coburns-ipad-stands. Christmas gift anyone?

Friday, November 15, 2013

My Latest Hipster-esque Addiction

This addiction of mine is dangerous. I'm tempted to throw all my money at it.

In a way I'm just following the crowd. Luckily, it's a crowd led by innovative students in the BYU Kickstarter class. Check out my post about their sweet new products, which got me hooked on crowdfunding in the first place.

Top Kickstarter products on my Christmas list? Definitely the Delight Bulb planter with its invigorating color and the sleek Linear Calendar.  

Super, on the other hand, thinks Playsets—not from BYU but stunning nonetheless—might be the next coolest thing in gaming. It only has eight more hours left. Don't let the crowd leave you behind.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

My Mom Inadvertently Joined the Cancer Club

It was hard to hear my dad report back everything the doctors had told them about my mom's colon cancer as I sat in their home. Hard for many reasons, but partially, it's hard because apparently, I had expectations. My mind kept rethinking, "This is that moment where my mom tells me she has cancer." I didn't realize I had an idea of what a moment like that would entail, but I did. 

The most encouraging phrase she and my dad offered was that the oncologist had told them, "It will be a rough year." There were no final sentences or timeframes, just "a rough year."

For the most part, my mom's month of chemo and radiation treatment has been very calm. Her body handled it pretty well until the last week. With burns on her hands and feet and feeling too weak to walk, my mom heroically pushed through the last few rounds of treatments. 

The side effects of chemo are subsiding, and now, she will have her tumor removed surgically in the next little while. We think things will be fine, but we appreciate prayers sent our way nonetheless. She has shown a new courage and fortitude since this all began. She surprises me every day with her ability to take it all. 

I wonder if people realize they have such strong ideas about cancer before it taps them on the shoulder. We interact with it so frequently in forms of billboards and fundraisers, but those don't mean as much until you realize you've somehow joined the cancer club. 

Pardon my lightness. It's just comforting to think sometimes that cancer isn't something you can entirely avoid. EVERYONE should be screened, of course: colonoscopies, mammograms, whatever it takes to be on the defensive, do it. 

But outside of those things, and maybe smoking, cancer isn't exactly something you get because you were too unhealthy. Modern medicine may reveal otherwise eventually, but for now, it's simply: my mom has colon cancer and we fight it. There aren't any what-ifs.

So far, the fight is going well. When she completed her radiation treatment, the doctors gave her a certificate of completion and a bottle of sparkling cider to celebrate. 

She says that aside from her own birth and giving birth to my brother and me, it's the only certificate she's ever earned. I, for one, though, am very proud of her involvement in each one. 

Monday, November 4, 2013

I'm Ready! I'm Ready?

I'm writing this post because I feel like writing a post, which actually means I feel like doing everything.

I'm ready to do market research for a startup. I'm ready to scrub the baseboards. I'm ready to make posters. I'm ready to finish off my freelance job. I'm ready to write about everything in my head. I'm ready to sew dresses. I'm ready to cook dinner. I'm ready to read real books. I'm ready to make schedules and plans and nail them all.

Or at least I was an hour ago when I planned out this post in my head. Then I got hungry and frustrated with the library catalog. And my heightened sense of self-worth and ability came down just a notch. That's better than yesterday when it crashed altogether. When that happened, I did things that needed to be done, but inwardly hated it.

My desire to change my world is finicky like that, like an old dog raring to catch a ball who realizes there's not enough reward and its legs are too tired already. Every day is a little bit different. Sometimes I can settle on just one thing to do, maybe it's useful, maybe it's not. Other times I want to do everything and wind up do nothing for lack of decision. And there are definitely days in which I will not and cannot do anything other than the barest of minimums.

But some days I feel like doing everything and I do. I clean, cook, create, cultivate, and conquer, even all before noon occasionally. The troubling part is that when I don't, I stop believing I ever did. I might do all on a Tuesday, but by Wednesday, I'm convinced that I am a lazy, no good person. I'm making slow progress in rejecting that belief on my non-doing days.

But one thing is becoming clear: the doing days will return. No matter how little I feel like doing on any given day, the desire to do more will come back. It may take a day or two, but either way it won't show up again because I told my non-doing self that I was lazily and pathetically wasting away. My self-talk can be as negative as it wants, but it can't bring back the drive.

So, I'm learning to trust, cozy up on the couch, and patiently enjoy watching Psych until the readiness returns and I successfully go and do, because I know I will.

As a side note, I can't use the word ready in any context without thinking about SpongeBob. Does anyone else suffer from this same problem?  

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Halloween: The New Happy Holiday

This Halloween holiday keeps growing on me more every year.

(Let's think about that statement literally for a second . . . Great Halloween costume? Possibly.)

I don't do scary, but I'm finding ways of making this season my own. Last Saturday, we threw my idea of a perfect Halloween party. The elements? Good food and great television. Yes, folks. We watched all the scary episodes of Psych and, as tradition demands, my favorite scary episode of Boy Meets World. It's a winning combination.

In case you need your own lineup for tonight, here are the Psych episodes that made my list. (You might notice the absence of "Scary Sherry" and "Tuesday the 17th." Confession: they're too scary for me. Don't judge.)

  • 2:16 Shawn (and Gus) of the Dead
  • 3:1 Ghosts
  • 4:8 Let's Get Hairy
  • 5:11 In Plain Fright
  • 6:3 This Episode Sucks
  • 6:11 Heeeeere's Lassie
  • 6:14 Autopsy Turvy

And as for the good food, I made these caramel apples after I sanded the apples down with actual sandpaper. Turns out, this is key to a great caramel apple.

If there's time tonight, we'll also be celebrating with a batch of these soft pretzels.

And since it's also Throwback Thursday, here we are two years ago. Beauty and the Banana.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

My New Job in the Most Beautiful Box

Circles, fountains, and stairways to heaven. That's what I saw the first time I entered the Tanner Building on BYU's campus seven years ago. Though I'd grown up nearby, that trip to campus was the first real one. I was a high school senior and a tumultuous one at that.

That day was to be one of my first deep descents in the valley of decision making. It's not a place I thrive in and certainly not one I like to visit. There were small forays before and there were worse visits after, but this was the first time it really, really mattered.

I was trying to decide where to go to college, and the factors I'd considered previously were falling apart. So I made a choice based on feelings and architecture. I fell in love with the Tanner Building and the Joseph F. Smith Building. They're boxy and bold. I decided to study whatever was in those buildings, but I ended up spending all my time as a student in the JFSB.

Now, it's the Tanner's turn.
I'm still not sure what it is about this building that gets to me.

This time though, it will be a more professional association, rather than an educational one.

It's hard to see, but these trees outside my office are stunning.
Consider this the official announcement of the end of unemployment. I am now the assistant editor of Marriott Alumni Magazine. In the near future, my writing and editing will be appearing here and here.

In short, I'm as head over heels about this job as the building it's housed in. Times fourteen. And a little bit.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Friday, September 20, 2013

Ice Cream Wrapped in Sugar and Love: Your Perfect Korra Party Food

Remember when I did my hair like this?

I also made mochi ice cream to celebrate the release of Legend of Korra Book 2. And it turned out very well.

We inadvertently discovered the perfect ice cream for mochi. BYU catering makes this weird lemonade-like drink called "Y Sparkle." In the same odd tradition, the creamery has sparkle sherbet. It's tangy and intense, and when you get to about the third lick it reaches out and whips itself around your tongue and squeezes like a python. In a good way. And I'm not actually kidding at all. That's what it feels like.

Snakes aside, it is the perfect tangy complement to the sweet mochi dough. The mochi also tones down the strangling action.

I've also finally found a good recipe for mochi. Check out these two links. The first is for the converted measurements, and the second is for the actual recipe.

Making mochi ice cream was much easier than I thought, and it's a satisfying process involving gooey sticky dough.

And of course, you can use any ice cream you like. (But really, trust me on the sparkle sherbet.) The other ingredients are mostly easy to come by. They sell sweet rice flour/powder in most speciality food stores AND usually in the Asian section of your local grocery store. I found it at Macey's the other day. I don't remember it being particularly expensive, and one box is enough to make mochi forever. Almost. Look for a box like this.

It is the perfect treat for celebrating today's Legend of Korra episode. Flameo, Hotman. Flameo.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

My Grandfather's Garden: Tomato Soup

The latest additions to my grandfather's garden are the two mourning doves. The funny part is they've always been around. At my parent's home, I've been woken up by their soft but unmistakable coo for as long as I can remember.

But now my grandfather has trained them with food. He calls out and shakes the box of seed. They land on the stand he built to keep them safe from my mother's cats. If he's late for dinner, they scope the neighborhood looking for him and gently swoop over his bald head when they find him across the street helping with someone's yard work.

The garden has changed but the tomatoes are just the same. Nothing makes better soup than the tomatoes my grandfather grows.

Monday, September 16, 2013

I Interrupt my Previous Post to Say: Mideau. Parlour Hawk. One Night. One Stage

When I first met Spencer Harrison, he thought I was breaking into his house.

I wasn't. I swear.

I was coming over to study with his roommate, who told me to walk in and wait while he went to pull his car out of a ditch. True story, including the part about the ditch.

Now, Spencer, former bassist of Fictionist, has returned to the Provo music scene with Libbie Linton and a great new project: Mideau.

Their album release show last Friday SOLD OUT. As did the album release show for Parlor Hawk! So tonight, you have the chance to see TWO sell-out bands put on one great show at 8 p.m. at Velour Music Gallery (an all-ages venue and wellspring of knock-out music [see: Imagine Dragons, Joshua James, etc.]) in Provo (135 N. University Ave.)

I love seeing good people make great things, and even more so, I love when everyone else sees it too.

Friday, September 13, 2013

In Case Your Friday Is Not Fantastic Enough

This is my new favorite Onion article of all time. I laughed at every word. Please enjoy.


Also, tonight is the premiere of Legend of Korra Book 2! And you can watch all of Book 1 on nick.com! Get excited!

We're celebrating with mochi ice cream.

Oh, and I'm wearing my hair like this all day.

It might just be the most comfortable hairstyle ever. Seriously, kids . . .

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

One Great Truth I'm Learning from Unemployment

Sadly, I did not get one of the jobs I was excited about because I was slow in turning in my application and the position had already been filled.

This is prime material for self-loathing and regret.

Before I had the chance to get deep into the loathing though, Super told me this:

"You don't have to beat yourself up about things in order to do better."

Until now, I don't think I'd ever really thought that the loathing was optional to progress. In some sense, doesn't that change everything?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Sleep Talking and Other Stories

After five months of marriage, I'm still surprised by how much it feels like a sleepover—the kinds my best friends and I had when we were kids. I think it feels like that because of the conversations we have.

By 11 p.m., I'm in one of two states: my jokes are getting more ridiculous and I'm cracking myself up or I'm so tired I've gotten weepy. Either way, Super has to get me to stop talking so I'll sleep. In this respect, I most resemble a little kid who never wants to go to bed and needs to make one more trip to the bathroom. We've switched sides of the bed, because the closets in the dark fuel my nightmares.

In the morning, we discuss who won the struggle for the blankets, who took more than their half of the bed, who actually slept, who was awake all night, and who said the most ridiculous thing in their sleep—the most famous of them being when I asked Jacob, "You san't cleep?"

The other morning I woke up and realized my husband was—both literally and figuratively—the brightest thing in the room. I know this because I've had a head cold, and I opened my eyes searching for something bright enough to trigger a sneeze. And I saw him, said nothing, and happily recited to myself the words of Thomas Merton:

"There is no way of telling people they are all walking around shining like the sun."

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Help Me, Honda! Save the Drive-In Movie!

I think it had something to do with my head cold, but when I stumbled upon Honda's Save the Drive In project I got all weepy.

I love drive-in movies. There's one in Mount Pleasant (the Basin Drive In), which Super and I are quite taken with. It's only an hour drive alongside sweeping landscapes to movie perfection. The family friendly, communal gathering is unlike any other. And it's cheaper than seeing a movie in the normal theater (in most cases), which moves the drive in high on our list. Even in our little car, it's a lovely set up.

In a few days, drive in theaters who have not switched to digital projectors will be shut down. It costs about $80,000 to convert, and that's far more than most of these theaters have. By voting in the Save the Drive In project, you can help at least one theatre stay open. Check out the video below, and then go to projectdrivein.com today to vote and find out more about what you can do.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Necessity of Cheerleaders

When I think of cheerleaders, I think of a girl from my high school I didn’t know very well and the day she broke her nose. During a cheer practice in the gym, she fell when someone was supposed to catch her, shattering the tiny bones in her face, and spilling a lot of blood on the wood floor—according to whoever passed the story along to me in the hallway between class. I felt so bad for her and even worse for the person who didn’t catch her.

Ironic how that’s the image that comes to mind. Not pompoms or perky ponytails. Just someone else’s pain and the obvious truth that my body and I were never meant to do backflips. Nope. I am no acrobat. (I left that up to my best friend, who was such a gymnast that the boys at school called her Xena, after the one and only warrior princess.)

But I think I’m a great cheerleader. I decided that after my last shift at the Family Support and Treatment Center, where I work as a house parent in the crisis nursery.

When the other kids realized I’m too slow to make tag fun, they went inside leaving Nate (name changed) and I out on the playground. Though Nate doesn’t really notice, I’ve known him since he was four. Our friendship goes back to my early days of volunteering in the nursery. Now he’s six, and I still don’t know much about his past other than that he was adopted out of the system. This kind of info wasn’t really important to me though when I sat down on the grass, and he picked up a basketball.

I don’t think he made a shot until about the fifth try. But when he did, I clapped and shouted, and Nate smiled in the way he always does: with more sweetness than you can believe. A few more failed attempts, and then point number two. I repeated the cheering, and he repeated the smile. And on we went like that. I thought he’d get bored sometime soon, but when he had made the eighteenth basket, I reminded him that he was almost to twenty. He realized how close he was, “Oh yeah! Eighteen, nineteen, twenty!” Soon he scored that nineteen and the twenty, and I cheered and clapped each victory. All the way to thirty-one.

He declared a time-out and sat down on my patch of grass to discuss the events. He was very satisfied with the score. I was mostly surprised by it. Nate has always been resilient and patient, so I take no credit for that. But I was astounded that a little cheering kept him going for so long. Having someone tick off the victories and minimize the mistakes turned a few baskets into thirty-one.

In the haze of summer shade and the quiet of a nearly empty playground, I realized I am great at this cheerleading thing. It’s less messy than I realized, and I think I could do it forever.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Christmas in August: Chocolate-Covered Raspberries

Here's what we did with the spoils from our day of raspberry picking.
Yes. Those are chocolate-covered raspberries, and they are by far the superior chocolate-dipped fruit. I first saw such a thing done by the Chocolate Cottage in Sandy, Utah. They are located just across the street from the Living Planet Aquarium. I highly recommend both. A visit to one is not complete without a visit to the other. But you'll have to hurry up if you want to hit both. The aquarium will close on September 10 and reopen at their new Draper location in December. Here's the info.

Now that I've been distracted by pretty fish, back to chocolate. These are quite simple to do.

Step 1: Convince your sister-in-law to give up sugar and then give you all her nice melting chocolate.

(Actually, I didn't have to do any convincing on this one. My sister-in-law is just this awesome all around.)

Step 2: Pick lots of raspberries. McBride Briar Patch and this berry patch still have some. One great tip I learned was that the best way to store your berries as you pick is to take an empty, clean gallon milk jug, cut off the top (leaving the handle), and tie it around your waist.
Step 3: Melt your chocolate, and drizzle it over raspberries on wax paper.

Step 4: Wait for the chocolate to harden. Then enjoy.

In our house, we didn't melt down the chocolate and drizzle it until about 11 p.m. and went to bed soon after. Super said that when I woke up with bad dreams in the middle of the night (which happens way too often) that I could wake him up and we'd eat the berries. So at 2 a.m. I woke up, woke him up, and said, "It's Christmas!"

Turns out you don't have to be completely awake to fully enjoy these berries. And eating them early in the morning truly made everything feel like Christmas.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Berry Farms of Payson

Yesterday got away from me. But thanks to unemployment, this was no problem. I had plans for job applications, cleaning, and other noble pursuits. But then we realized it was raspberry season.

I whisked a very tired husband off to Payson. (P.S. Payson, your rodeo billboards need some design help and some editing. Call me.) When we picked cherries a few weeks ago, they passed along the number for another farm nearby. This farm turned out to be the best deal.

We walked the path along the grape vines to the wind break and started on the north raspberry bushes. I never realized how raspberries can be kind of hidden. You have to check underneath and below to find them sometimes. We gathered four pounds of raspberries and then two pounds of black berries, which were gigantic, beautiful, and squishy.

Six rows down a father and a son split the singing parts. One calling out: Ba ba black sheep. And the other answering: Yes sir. Yes sir.

Dark clouds rolled in and sprinkled a bit of rain. And the wind changed and suddenly farm life smelled less lovely. A rooster kept crying though it was way past noon. We met an old dog named Cam, and I found a black cat who was napping/hiding.  Fresh flowers for the table stopped with my internship, so we picked sunflowers off the side of the road and brought them home. We started freezing the berries and napped.

And though my usual habits say, "Why don't you get more done?" I think this day was fairly perfect.

If you're interested in picking raspberries and blackberries at $2.50 a pound, give the Phelps family a call. They also have peaches and other good things. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013


All photos by Jacob

I want to say that morning and I have a complicated relationship, but that's not quite it. I think morning is more fickle than I am, because it seems to keep moving.

Somedays I wake up early and greet it outside before 7:30. At those times, it rushes around me once with its fresh cool touch and then settles right next to me. Together we stride out. We meet strangers walking by and board trains going somewhere. But mostly we just breathe.

Unless, I'm late. Then there's more huffing and puffing towards the next thing. Morning feels neglected. My sleep schedule gets disrupted once again. And we stop seeing each other in the same beautiful way.

Then morning surprises me at a later time. Around 9, it's still there for me, waiting outside, but it's colors have changed. Instead of sitting by me, it waves from the mountains and causes them to shine. I say hello quickly as I walk to the car, and it seems just fine with that, like a friendly neighbor with nothing to hide.

Today we met twice at 8:30 and 10:43. Each time it reached in through my bedroom window and made the piles of laundry and the stacks of boxes gold. The tree outside was glad to see us both.

I sometimes try to remind myself that getting up early means enjoying more beautiful mornings, which is more satisfying than sleep. But morning and I like the variety. Turns out, it's lovely always.

In the spirit of this post, I share this video: "Here Comes the Sun" from The Concert for George, which is still to me one of the most lovely musical endeavors ever. One year after his death, George Harrison's friends gathered to give what Eric Clapton described as (if my memory is correct) "a beautiful tribute for our lovely friend." Never forget that "Here Comes the Sun" was written by George, not Lennon and McCartney. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Unemployment and How It's Good for Me

Back in the lavish days when we splurged on Disneyland.
If you can't tell from my post titles as of late, I am currently unemployed, in the true sense of the word. I am not on summer vacation. I am not taking a break from school. I'm not even taking a break for myself. I am unemployed because my yearlong internship/paid full-time job ended, as I knew it would, before I could secure another position. 

This has raised a variety of emotions. Over the past week, there has been much rejoicing about being unemployed. Though my internship was lovely (filled with nice people and generally nice tasks), it came with a two- to four-hour daily commute that tortured my soul when coupled with an eight-hour workday and a fifteen-minute lunch break.

I'm savoring the time to write, to clean, and to sew on all the buttons that had been waiting, estranged from their proper counterparts, until I had time for little things again. For the first time in my married life (all four months of it), I get to be home for real (having only a few hours, mostly marked by exhaustion from the day, didn't really count). Life lately has felt like a never-ending Saturday, without all the stress I had before when it was the only day to get something done. Taking this break right now is healing my soul from a lot of things.

Most of the time.

The other times I cry and panic and worry. I love having a job. I love doing things that matter to people. And I very much want to find a good job. When these concerns surface, they do so in a big way.

About a week before the end of my previous job, Super called me at work to see if my sister-in-law, a new BYU freshman, could stay with us for a few weeks. This sent me into an emotional freak out. (Not your fault, Bek. I like you! Let me explain.) I felt so worried about it because I had no idea what my life would look like by then. Would I be home all day? Would we need to move? Would I be commuting again? Not being able to picture myself three weeks from then terrified me.

Today, I've been reading the Apron Stage, a lovely blog to which my other sister-in-law Sarah contributed. The first posts of hers I read were actually the last ones (here and here), in which she announces the end of the Apron Stage blog and her own life changes. She says seven times "I do not know."

I wanted a scripture of my own that deals with these types of uncertainties—Sarah's past ones I'm reliving as I read (even though I know what happens next, generally, in the three years that follow that last post) and for my own.

I found this: after hearing a soul-shaking sermon from King Benjamin, a prophet in the Book of Mormon, his people say the following.
And we, ourselves, also, through the infinite goodness of God, and the manifestations of his Spirit, have great views of that which is to come; and were it expedient, we could prophesy of all things.
And it is the faith which we have had on the things which our king has spoken unto us that has brought us to this great knowledge, whereby we do rejoice with such exceedingly great joy.
These people are very happy and very certain about their future. But I don't think they were anymore certain about what the next day, week, or month would look like. They were certain that God would receive them safe and sound. I like that. As much as I'd like to see one month from now, "great views of that which is to come" might cover even better ground.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Late But Tasty: Cherry Almond Cake

I finally finished Super's midterm cake! It was well received despite it's lateness.

True to my own musing, I ended up making the Cake Blog's Fresh Cherry Cake. They use goose berries, which are yellow to add some lovely colors. I originally intended on using bing and rainer cherries to get my reds and yellows in, but we only had red ones by the time I made it. Lovely nonetheless.

The almond whipping cream was truly delicious. I would double it. It looks nice put on sparingly, but when actually eating the cake, it was more tasty and less dry if you dump on an extra serving of whipping cream. Don't feel guilty. Do it for cake everywhere.

Now a confession: the cake fell over as soon as we finished taking pictures. I put it back together like this, and I actually liked that look for serving better.

I don't think you need to fear it falling over if you're using a more normal size of cake pan. I used little springform pans: a wedding gift from my Ever-Lovin' Bethany. They are so cute. I want to make everything in them. I cooked them at 350, as instructed, and they took about 15 minutes. My only trouble with them was that I didn't push them far enough into the oven on the second batch, which led to one side cooking a bit faster. So watch out for that. But truly, they are lovely.

I also now love to grease and flour cake pans. The railing outside our apartment is often coated in a light dusting of flour. I'm just waiting for the day when I drop my cake pans three stories. That will be both tragic and funny, and it's just the kind of mistake I'd make.

I'm glad this post is finally up. Lately I've been loving writing about deeper things, like my unemployment, and I have several posts I'm eager to share with you all next week. Feel free to like, pin, and share any of them.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Unemployment Day 10: Cakes for Calculus

Fun fact: the math lab at BYU was originally built to be a computer server room.

Computer servers = air conditioning^10.

This is why Super, who is spending the day there, requested that I bring him a sweater, which he wore proudly in the August swelter. He's charming like that.

Connecticut, in April = no swelter.

He's also so charming that he saved me the donut holes from his last day of class and wrapped them up in his old homework. They came out streaked with blue notebook paper lines.

Speaking of sweet things, I'm a cake behind! Super's midterm cake will be done tomorrow! Get excited.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

Awesome Easy Pasta Recipe

Allow me to suggest something for your meal planner: this creamy artichoke pasta.

No matter what the prep time says, every meal takes me at least an hour to make. However, this one was really quick, and I actually had everything on hand for the most part. And it was surprisingly delicious.

You'll need artichokes. (All the cool kids love artichokes.) And I'm newly committed to using purple onions in everything. They are lovely.

I didn't have quite enough cottage cheese, and I had no sour cream. So I threw in some heavy cream, which never hurts. If you make it, let me know how the texture comes out with the cottage cheese and the sour cream.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Finally! The Blueberry Cake and an End to Cake Week

This Cake Week has turned out to be the longest week of my life—sort of. Many good and time-consuming things have happened to delay this final cake post, but here it is.

Super's cake for spring finals was a Blueberry Breakfast cake, from the Cake Blog.

Sadly, our verdict on this cake was that it was good, but it turns out that what we really wanted was a blueberry cake, not a breakfast cake.

The maple flavor, the cinnamon, and the browned butter really overpower the cake. So if you're really committed to those flavors, this is the cake for you. If not, maybe reconsider.

I didn't make any alterations to the recipe, except we added a lot of fresh blueberries to the finished cake. Turns out this is what it really needed. With the extra blueberries, it was considerably more tasty. To cut down on cost, I used a tiny bit of maple extract with normal syrup in the cake, since pure maple syrup was much more expensive.

If you're looking to make the same cake, I recommend this site on how to brown butter. The butter didn't behave like I expected, and this was really helpful. The recipe says it takes about ten minutes to turn an amber color. On my stove, it took three minutes. So, be aware of the cues.

I'm already very excited to make the next cake. Super has definitely earned it: yesterday his first midterm lasted four hours and forty-five minutes. Any suggestions?

Saturday, July 6, 2013

This Is Not the Cake You Were Looking for, But It's Chocolate Cherry Cake

I'm still a few days away from having a completed cake of awesomeness, which will be Super's official spring term cake. In the meantime though, Super and I have been enjoying a lovely chocolate cherry cake, made by our kind friend, Miss Berry.

She kindly shared with me the recipe, which I now give to you. It comes from a very old magazine, which means it's legit. According to her, the frosting always comes out grainy, meaning you can feel the sugar granules still. I don't mind though. This is one of my favorite textures. I love unabashed sugar.

1 pkg. Fudge Cake Mix
21 oz. can of cherry pie filling
1 tsp. almond extract
2 eggs, beaten

1 c. sugar
5 Tbsp. butter
1/2 c. milk
1 c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 9x13 pan. Combine cake mix, cherry filling, almond extract, and eggs. Stir by hand until well mixed. Pour into greased pan. Bake 25 to 30 minutes. While cake cools, prepare the frosting by combining sugar, butter, and milk in a small saucepan. Boil for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Remove from heat, and stir in the chocolate chips until smooth. Then pour over cake. 

Speaking of cherries, we spent the morning at a U-Pick cherry farm in Payson, Utah. It was fantabulous in every way imaginable: great cherries, amazing prices, lovely company, beautiful trees, and tall, sturdy ladders for the climbing. I highly recommend going. Their last day is Monday, July 8th, but they are open Monday (and the rest of today) from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., so you can still make it! It's 75 cents for a pound, which is a great deal. More info here.

I'm making Super's cake for real today; pictures will be up on Tuesday. But all these cherries are tempting me to make this cake instead . . .

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

I'd like to take a time-out from cake to wish you a happy Fourth of July. I really like this holiday for many reasons.

I should probably be celebrating by saying something meaningful or at least posting pictures of my handsome Marine brother. But there are celebrations calling and buttermilk syrup to be made. (Why do I have buttermilk on hand, you ask? It has less to do with syrup and more to do with me finally having ingredients for Super's cake!)

So, I give you three of my favorite Fourth videos. The first, one my co-worker and I used to sing at work.
The second, from the musical 1776, which I love deeply. Mr. Feeny is my John Adams. And this man is so much my Ben Franklin, I can't even remember the actor's name.

And the third from the West Wing, which is self-explanatory and makes me cry every time.

God bless America; my brother, who stands up for it; Mrs. Thompson, who taught me to love it; and Aaron Sorkin, who made me less worried about how it all runs.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Unfortunate Cake Delay

In great news, this Cake Week will not end yet! (Why yes, I have all kinds of power when it comes to extending weeks. Seven days is highly relative.)

The sad news is that the delay on making the cake is happening because our car broke down (that makes three times since our engagement, if you don't count the flat tire). So, alas, I have not yet made it to the store for ingredients.

I think this waiting is making me more pumped though to get started. I've got cake pans anxiously anticipating their next huggable friend.

Anyone want to guess what kind of a cake it will be?

I'll give you a hint: it involves Super's favorite kind of berry. Feel free to guess away in the comments.

In other news: in addition to the car dying, there was another demise in our household—Devin, the stormtrooper spatula, who melted to my mom's pan (so three demises if we count the pan; we must like the number three).

Don't worry though. We've replaced him with a clone spatula from Williams Sonoma. It's like Devin was never even gone. Honestly, he is a great spatula. He's even a better spatula than he is a stormtrooper.

Next to Devin, these people are my favorite stormtroopers.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Gooey Butter Cake and Caramel Cake

In the newlywed chaos, two cakes have emerged since my last cake event. They were nothing as complicated as the 108 Oreo Cake or the infamous Cookie Dough Cake, but they were certainly delicious.

For winter finals: Paula Deen’s gooey butter cake with sliced strawberries on top.

For spring midterms: Caramel Cake from Our Best Bites, which I also added sliced strawberries to.

Of the two, the Caramel Cake was definitely the more delicious of the two. I’m finding that if you let yellow cake sit for a day before eating it, the flavors mingle in a wonderful way. Such was true with this cake, and the Cookie Dough Cake as well. And I wouldn’t recommend omitting the strawberries on top with the caramel cake. They’re a must-have, per usual.

These are both great cakes to make if you're looking for something awesome, but less time consuming than the 108 or the Cookie Dough.  Sadly, I didn't take pictures of either of these cakes. But here's a picture I'm quite fond of. 
I don't know what exactly it says about our relationship, but I'm pretty sure it says good things. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Big, Big Cake Event

 I told Jacob that instead of me making him a cake for winter midterms, I was planning our wedding cake instead—a true cake event.
 We had four different ice cream cakes from Coldstone Creamery, and it worked out great! This is a lovely option if you want lots of pretty, tasty cake for a good price. But they take a lot of muscle to cut, as you can see here.

(Thanks goes to my co-worker who kindly sat with me at lunch and helped me choose the most delicious combinations even though she wouldn’t be able to eat them and their gluten-infested insides.)

It's Cake Week! Send me a picture of your best Cake Event at ellisemdashes@gmail.com. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Cake Week! Cake Week!

Though posting has been sporadic, the cake events have continued!

Cake event, noun: the over-the-top cakes, Ellis makes Super to celebrate the commencement of midterms and finals.

You’ll notice that “midterms and finals” means a cake event every two months during fall and winter semester, and a cake every three weeks during spring and summer terms. That’s some intense cake making for the summer months.

And it’s time to get baking again. So on that note, I declare this Cake Week. Cake Week means I put up some pictures of us and fancy cakes, culminating in pictures of the newest Cake Event, which will happen sometime before next Tuesday.

I now declare this Cake Week—open.

Have you made any awesome cakes in the last few months? Send me a picture at ellisemdashes@gmail.com, and I'll post the best ones here. 

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