Monday, December 6, 2010

Stop me before I bake again.

Stephanie, the wonder coworker, has left me.

Okay, she didn't leave me, per se. She found a job that suits her life better and makes her happier. And I want that for her, I do. You would have been so proud of me, dear invisible friend. I only whined a little.

So. I have a new coworker. She worked her first weekend and, to make things easier, I was asked to work with her. No problem. Well, not much of one. Yes, it meant giving up a fair chunk of my off-time, but if it kept all running smoothly during a time of transition, it was worth it. Yesterday, she mentioned that today is her birthday.


Yes, this meant baking.

Now, you know I love to bake. I already had something on the books to make that day, though. We'll get to that in a minute.

I called Roommate to see if I needed to pick up anything at the grocery store in addition to the small items I would need for the day's baking, and Roommate reminded me that I also needed to make shortbread for her mother. [Roommate's mom decided to give pretty coffee cups as Christmas gifts and wanted shortbread to fill the oversized mugs. My shortbread, to be exact.] The way Roommate reminded me of this was too precious for words.

Roommate: What do you need to make shortbread?
Me: Butter, flour and sugar.
Roommate: Do we have that?
[small pause]
Me: Yes.

Yes. We have flour, butter and sugar in the House of Obsessive Baking. Followed closely by eggs, heavy cream and baking cocoa. In fact, if I am out of flour, it pretty much is the end of the world and we need to watch out for those four guys on horseback. And really, when I say that, I mean watch out. Look both ways before crossing the street. 'Cause whammo! Outta nowhere, here they come. And rude...! Rude. Every last one of them. Like, ohhh, you're the Pale Rider, you're such a tough guy. It would kill you to use a freaking turn signal????

Yes, yes, I digress again. One would think you'd be used to it by now.

Anyway. Baking.

When I got home, I started with the shortbread for Roommate's mom. [It's the cream-colored cookie in the picture above.] Fortunately, this is an incredibly easy cookie to make. [See ingredient list as previously mentioned.]

Then Roommate reminded me that she had received a "to die for" pumpkin bar recipe, and we should try it. I say unto you again, WE should try it. We. Much like "we made a horse cake." Remember how that turned out?

Actually, it wasn't quite like the horse cake situation. In this case, by "we," Roommate meant "Lisa." And so....

The pumpkin bars were not to die for. Oh, they're quite nice, really. Good texture. Pleasant moisture level. And thanks to my first experience hand grating nutmeg, fairly flavorful. But to die for? I think not.

These things completed, I moved on to the birthday cake. I considered making my go-to chocolate cake, but in the end, was compelled to make the peach-cinnamon-ginger bundt cake you see below, served with my cousin Dana's apricot syrup.

Pretty, huh? I have a Heritage Bundt pan I got from Williams-Sonoma. Pretty. So pretty. Of course, one must use half a can of Baker's freaking Secret to keep the pretty cake from sticking, but hey! Such is the price for beauty. Or so my friends who have had plastic surgery tell me.

And if it doesn't come out perfectly, well....God bless cousin Dana and her apricot syrup.

It was at this point I started on my last baking foray of the afternoon/evening and Roommate announced she was done washing the dishes I dirtied for the day. This isn't unusual or unreasonable, as I tend to use many, many dishes as I cook or bake. Fortunately, I was able to clean up the rest myself. This was not difficult. What was difficult, however, was the last item on my list.

French meat pie.

For this, I blame Guy Fieri.
If you are unaware, dear invisibleness, Guy Fieri hosts a show on the Food Network called "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" and now and then, shows his viewers a dish I cannot resist trying to make. Such was the case with French meat pie.
I paged through a few of my ninety-five billion cookbooks after seeing this dish made on television and found a few variations on it. Then, emboldened by the first real success I had making pie crust for Thanksgiving dessert, I gave it a try and brought my efforts to work.
So many lovely guinea pigs at work.
One guinea pig---ahem, colleague in particular raved about the pie. So much so, in fact, that another coworker [who is also a dear friend] asked me to make this nice [albeit raving] woman a meat pie of her own. And, as this is essentially meat loaf with a crust, I said okay.
I said okay. I said sure. I did. I have no one to blame but myself.
Again, siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.
So in the spirit of the season, let's sing together...
I baked
Four dozen shortbreads
Three zillion pumpkinbars
Two pounds of bundt cake
And a French meat pie for Mer-e-diiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiith!!!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Oh, ouch.

A dear friend sent me a picture message just recently, showing off her brand-spanking-new microdermal piercings. On the back of her neck. Yes, my invisible pal, you read that correctly. On the back of her neck.

Now, before you shriek and run away, or turn a delicate, pale green, like the fragile leaves of spring, let me tell you a tiny bit of the information she shared with me. A tiny bit, don't be scared. I won't go on and on.

Was that an eyeroll? Mmm. I see. I'll let it go this time, but if it happens again, I might have to unleash The Look. You know what I'm talking about. Yes, you do. Yes, you do!

Anyway. Piercings.

Evidently, a microdermal piercing is a little different than the usual kind; the puncturing jewelry doesn't go in to one bit of skin and out another. No, no. One end gets rammed into the skin and then that end is screwed into a bit that lives under the skin. At least, I think this is what my friend told me. It's difficult to be sure, as I was screaming and rocking back and forth while she described this to me.

No, I wasn't really doing that. Ha ha ha.... I would never--okay, it was close. I nearly did that.

But back to my friend. She survived her piercing experience, has two new pieces of body jewelry [which makes her very happy] and claims she's done with getting any more piercings for a while. As I have seen the additional body jewelry she does sport, I had this to say in response:

Uh huh. Sure. No, I believe you.

Now, I appreciate that this is something my dear friend loves to do. And it is her body. I'm not judging. It's just that I have a different frame of reference. I look at piercings and tattoos and scarification and making the holes of piercings bigger and all I can think is OWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWWW!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But that's me. [Dreadful grammar, I know.]

On a daily basis, people who come into my lab to have blood drawn inform me, in dire tones, that they do not like needles. As if this might be news to me. As if I expect them to like it. Who likes getting blood drawn? And would we want to know them?

I think not.

There are people who don't mind the process, I admit it. Delightful creatures. But nobody actually likes it. What amazes me, however, are the people who inform me of their distaste of the process...while dripping piercings and being covered with tattoos. At this point, I am less sympathetic than usual.

Patient: I'm not very good at this.
Me [after spotting a full "sleeve" of tattoos]: Really?
Patient: Yes. I can't stand needles.
Me: Uh huh. And this was done with Magic Marker?
Patient: Well, no, but it's different.

Yes, it is different. I stick the tip of one sterile, single-use needle into a vein, blood flows out, and voila! We're done. Your average tattoo artist repeatedly injects ink into skin, sometimes using bundles of needles, in a process that can take hours. Different. Yes.

I'm not saying blood draws don't skeeve me out as much as the next person. I'm a wuss. I admit it. I was 35 when I got my ears pierced. Roommate forced me to come to the mall--well, okay, not forced. But she insisted. They gave me a teddy bear to hold. Roommate held my other hand [later claiming I "nearly broke" her hand---pfft!] and a six year old, in the store with her mother looked at me as if to say, "Jesus, lady. Get it together." It was mortifying. It was painful. And I will never, ever, EVER get anything else pierced in my life, much less anything tattooed. I would rather get blood drawn any day.

Microdermal piercing. [shudder] Really? Gah.