Christmas Traditions

Every year around Christmastime, there are things that I traditionally watch, listen to, or read. This is one of them. It’s a little long, but if you can carve 15 minutes out of your day at some point between now and Christmas, I recommend a listen.

For further reading, check out David Sedaris’s essay, SantaLand Diaries, which chronicles his time spent working as an elf in Macy’s Herald Square. An excerpt:

Interpreters for the deaf came and taught us to sign “MERRY CHRISTMAS! I AM SANTA’S HELPER.” They told us to speak as we sign and to use bold, clear voices and bright facial expressions. They taught us to say “YOU ARE A VERY PRETTY BOY/GIRL! I LOVE YOU! DO YOU WANT A SURPRISE?”

My sister Amy lives above a deaf girl and has learned quite a bit of sign language. She taught some to me and so now I am able to say, “SANTA HAS A TUMOR IN HIS HEAD THE SIZE OF AN OLIVE. MAYBE IT WILL GO AWAY TOMORROW BUT I DON’T THINK SO.”

Merry Christmas!


This lovely ad just sprang up next to my Yahoo mail…

Is it because I blog so much about baked goods?

Hear me, Internet: I AM NOT FAT!! For your information, I am on Day Four of the Insanity workout!

Which, by the way, is definitely insane. I’m still getting used to it, so I’m not sure if I prefer it over P90X or not. It’s heavy on cardio while P90X was more of a combination of cardio and resistance training. Pro: the Insanity workouts are shorter. Con: Shaun T is not as entertaining as Tony Horton. Further investigation is needed for me to form a concrete opinion, but for now I’m getting insane in the membrane.

Anyway, Internet, let’s get back to the basics, shall we? Ads for shoes, clothing…I can handle that. Just please don’t call me fat again.

How to Store a Wedding Cake

Right before I got married, I learned about the best marriage tradition of all. We were to save a portion of the wedding cake, freeze it, and eat it on our first anniversary. As a huge cake fan, I was pretty psyched about this. I figured it would be a challenge to store a cake in the freezer and have it still taste good a year later, and I did not take the responsibility lightly. Moreover, The Primavera Regency did not simply give us a small sample of cake. We got the entire top—an 8-inch round. There was no way I was going to let this entire delectable cake get freezer burned or ruined in any way. So, I brought it home the morning after our wedding, and wrapped it up right before we hopped in a cab to the airport, Hawaii-bound.

Last week, I retrieved said cake from my parents’ freezer (it was taking up too much space in ours) and waited patiently for it to defrost. I didn’t really remember exactly how I wrapped it—I only remembered that there was a lot of foil and plastic wrap involved. And so, here are photos of each layer of wrapping, ending in the unveiling of the cake.

Layer 1: Plastic produce bag…for good measure, I guess?

Layer 2: Freezer paper, held together with…packing tape? I guess that’s all I had at the time.

Layer 3: Aluminum foil.

Layer 4: Plastic wrap. A lot of it. 10 sheets total. Wrapped and re-wrapped.
Uh oh, what is that brown thing? Apparently I left the flower on top. Either I thought it was fake, or I was too exhausted/excited for Hawaii to notice it.

Layer 5: THE CAKE! Once I took that gross flower off, it looked fine.
(The discoloration on the bottom half is my shadow)

Verdict: This year-old cake was just as good as it was on our wedding night. The cannoli filling was still delicious, and there was no residual, freezer-y taste.

Do you have a wedding coming up? Follow my steps—remembering to remove any live flora—and you’ll be good to go a year from now.

This is my first time ever participating in a fantasy football league. When it started, I was pumped. I was confident, although I don’t really know why. I am the only girl in the league, and Girl Power was coursing through my veins. “I’m going to join this league and kick ass and show all these guys that girls can play fantasy sports too!” I AM WOMAN, HEAR ME ROAR!!!!

I am now 0-4, and I hate fantasy football. I don’t know what I was thinking. My team has been crippled by injuries, crybaby Quarterbacks (Jay Cutler, I HATE YOU!!), and bad decision-making on my part (I would be 2-2 right now if I had started and benched different players). Why didn’t anyone tell me that, instead of paying $100 to have a little fun and watch football, I would be paying $100 to have weekly bouts of uncontrolled rage and bitterness? As bad as I feel for myself, I feel worse for Michael, who has to listen to me complain and sulk every weekend. “I’m going to lose this week because my team STINKS. I hate fantasy football. Whatever, I don’t even care anymore. I give up.”

As a testament to my resilient spirit, the day after I claim to be giving up, I go back to the website to retool and try to pick up new players for my team. By Tuesday, I feel like I might have a shot at winning. Then, the weekend rolls around, and I inevitably suffer another crushing defeat. I don’t know how much longer I can keep bouncing back like this.

The worst part about being a fantasy football loser is that, instead of disproving a gender stereotype, I have reinforced it! I wanted to have a respectable showing in the hopes that the other guys in the league wouldn’t simply think, “Oh, I’m playing Rachel this week—that’s a guaranteed win.” Unfortunately, that is absolutely the case. I have failed women everywhere.

Sorry, ladies!

Defying Logic

In a couple of months, I’m going to turn 27, which means I’m closing in on 30. Grey hairs continue to sprout out of my head (and I continue to pull them out). I go to sleep early. As far as I’m concerned, I’m starting to get old. So why, then, does the phrase, “With age comes wisdom” NOT apply to me? Why do I continue to do things that defy logic?

Case in point: I woke up on the morning of September 14 and made the shocking realization that I might have missed my friend Nate’s birthday—something I have never done in the 15+ years we have been friends. The problem was, I wasn’t completely sure if I had missed it or not. Was his birthday on the 19th? Or maybe it’s on the 16th? I couldn’t remember. When I got out of bed, I went into a drawer in the office and retrieved a small spiral notebook that I’ve had for quite a while. Beneath the Simpsons cover, it was about half full of random information: directions to friends’ houses (from before GPS’s existed), phone numbers (in case I ever lost a phone), and random factoids. The name of the Japanese artist who painted The Great Wave—Katsushika Hokusai. A list of all the movies David Fincher had directed (as previously stated, this notebook goes back to much nerdier times). Most importantly, this notebook contains a list of friends’ and family members’ birthdays. Or, I should say, contained.

I opened the notebook that morning to find that all of the old pages had been torn out. All that remained were some notes from a book weeding project I had been doing at a previous job. Obviously, I didn’t think the notebook contained very relevant information anymore, and perhaps I wanted to start fresh with the second half of the book. But, much to my surprise, I had even torn out the page with all of the birthdays! WHY would I do this? Did I think that I would be able to remember all of them? Impossible. Did I tear the page out but file it away into my accordion folder? Perhaps in the “Miscellaneous” folder or the “Very Important Things” folder? Nope. Did I transcribe the list into a Word document and save it on my computer? Nuh-uh. I have no idea why I did what I did. I can’t imagine that I actually threw it out, but where the heck would I have put it?

I love to organize and re-organize, but sometimes I think I do more harm than good. Every once in a while, I’ll move an item to a location that I think is more logical, but wind up not being able to find it months later. Where should I keep this hat? Well, you wear a hat on your head, and ‘head’ rhymes with ‘bed,’ so I think I’ll keep it under the bed. Right next to the peanut butter, which goes on bread.

Time to start fresh, I guess. So, when is your birthday again?

I could write…

I haven’t written a new post in a while, and I’m going to chalk it up to the dog days of summer. It was hot, I was lazy, and I guess I haven’t had anything to complain about. Now, it’s fall (I know it’s technically not fall, but for me September equals fall), but I’m still lazy, and I still don’t have anything to complain about. I think I’m suffering from blogger’s block.

I could write a paragraph dedicated to autumn: changing leaves, football, sweaters, and the omnipotence of pumpkin-flavored things. But that would be trite.

I could write about my thoughts on the most recent episode of Breaking Bad, but it might be a spoiler.

I could write about the weird dream I had last night, but nobody would care.

I could write about how I just poured the remaining granola bar crumbs from the package directly into my mouth, but that would be gross.

For now, I’m out of ideas.

This cake would have been AWESOME if it hadn’t gotten ruined.

After last week’s tomato cake, I wanted to move on to peppers, since we have an abundance of those as well. I searched around and decided on a Habanero Flourless Chocolate Cake. I had never made a flourless cake before, so I read a lot of recipes before deciding on a method. After researching, I wound up combining a basic flourless chocolate cake recipe with a similar recipe that incorporated the peppers. It’s the closest I’ve come to making up a recipe, so I was nervous about whether it would work or not. In the end, it worked out pretty well…aside from a glaring technical error.

Habanero Flourless Chocolate Cake

  • 8 oz good chocolate (I used Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate)
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 5 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 habanero peppers (seeded)

1. Chop up the chocolate in a food processor, put in bowl and set aside.
2. Separate the eggs. Whisk the yolks. Add salt to the whites and beat with a hand mixer until stiff peaks form. Set aside.
3. In a food processor, blend 3 habaneros with 1/2 cup water. Pour this mix into a saucepan, add sugar, and bring to a boil. Note: After removing the lid of the food processor, do not take a big whiff of the mixture. It’s potent!
4. Add boiling sugar to chocolate, then add butter, then egg yolks.
5. Gently fold in egg whites, a little bit at a time, until they are all incorporated.
6. Grease the bottom of a springform pan, place parchment in the bottom, and grease the parchment. Line the outside of the springform pan with aluminum foil. Pour the chocolate mix into the pan.
7. Place the springform pan into a large roasting pan, and fill the pan with water until it comes halfway up the springform pan.
8. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 45 minutes.

Hot peppas!

Eggs in the chocolate

This cake would have come out perfectly, except for one problem. I lined the pan with foil, but didn’t go all the way up the sides with it. As a result, I believe that some water seeped inside the pan and wound up ruining the cake. I baked it for an hour, and when I finally took it out of the oven, it turned out that the whole bottom of the cake was a gooey mess.

Initially, it appeared that only the bottom half of the cake was ruined, and maybe the top half was sufficiently baked. So, I inverted the cake onto a plate, peeled the parchment off of the bottom, and began to scrape off the chocolately goo. Turns out, it wasn’t just the bottom half of the cake that was ruined—it was the whole cake. When I was finally done scooping, all that was left was the thin outer shell. WOMP WOMP.

On the plus side, the chocolate goo was DELICIOUS. The recipe itself is excellent. It’s rich and chocolatey, and at the end of each bite, you get the heat from the habanero. It tastes like a Mexican hot chocolate, only in cake form. In the end, I took some of the chocolate slop, put it in a container, and threw it in the fridge. I went back for it the next day, and I have to say—even though it’s not a cake, it still tastes pretty good! Chilling it also helped to make the goo much more dense and much less mushy.

So, I will admit, this cake was a colossal failure, but I managed to salvage a little bit of it. I will definitely give this another try in the future. Next time, I may just bake it in a regular cake pan, or I’ll triple-wrap the springform to be safe. Regardless, take the knowledge I have gained and bake this cake yourself.