Archive for December, 2009

Dear Girl Who Tried (and failed) to Bag My Groceries,

You are an idiot. First of all, I use the self-check out line just to avoid people like you. The store was quiet, there was no one behind me, I was in the zone. And you couldn’t leave well enough alone. Never mind the fact that you snuck up on me and had already filled two plastic bags before I was able to tell you that I had reusable bags. The part that really got to me was after you finished up and I had to pull my cart over to the side and spend 10 minutes reorganizing every single bag. Luckily, I was only about 10 feet away from you, so I hope you saw me.

I don’t get you people. When you’re putting items in plastic bags, you’ll double bag a box of crackers and a can of tuna and finish the job with no less than 30 bags. But when I bring in my reusable bags, you’ll just cram everything together. That is what you did to me. I was thrilled to find my cold cuts on the bottom of one bag, crushed. You also crushed all of my leafy greens and just threw my ground beef into a random bag (I think it was in the same bag as the pineapple. You know, the spiky fruit that could have pierced the wrapper and gotten ground beef all over the contents of the bag?). What is the matter with you????? Didn’t they teach you anything when you started your stupid job? Basically, didn’t they tell you to do the opposite of what you did to me?

I so wanted to go up to you and say something, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I will tell you, though—you were the last straw. Now, whenever I go to Stop & Shop and someone tries to bag my groceries, I’m going to have to yell, “No! I’d like to bag my groceries myself, please!” I can imagine how well that’s going to go over. Are you happy? You’ve turned me into “that girl.”

Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I absolutely despise you, and you better hope that I never see you around the S&S again. Also, I hope you like it there at the grocery store, because that’s as far as you’re going to get in life.

Your friend,


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BBA Challenge: Focaccia

I am happy to report that, after the colossal failure that was my English muffins, I have redeemed myself with Focaccia. This bread is heavenly.

I started out with the basics, although this dough also called for some oil. I had to make the poolish (left) the night before.

This was a very wet dough, similar to ciabatta. Once it was mixed, I transferred it to the floured table. After letting it sit for 5 minutes, I stretched it out to double its original size. Then, I folded it into thirds, just like I did with the ciabatta. Please enjoy this succession of photos.

After I folded it up, I had to let it rise for 30 minutes and then repeat this process twice more. After the final rise, I placed the dough onto a sheet pan. I then added my homemade herb oil, which contained fresh parsley, basil, garlic, and rosemary. Once it was nice and oily, I dimpled the dough with my fingers and then let it rise again. Here is the dough after the rise. Before it went into the oven, I sprinkled on some dried oregano, basil, garlic salt, and fresh ground pepper.

The house smelled amazing while it was baking. After about 40 minutes, my masterpiece was ready.

This bread has to be one of my top three favorites. It was light, flavorful, and had some great holes! This leads me to believe that I’d make a better ciabatta the second time around, but why would I make ciabatta when I could make this?!

The next couple of breads on the list are pretty mainstream—French bread and Italian bread. I’ll be starting on those after the holidays. Merry Christmas!

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El fin de la escuela.

Today is officially my last day of school! And, barring any unforseeable interest in returning yet again for another degree of some sort, this is most likely my last day of school for the rest of my life! It’s actually pretty crazy to think about. Finally, no more:

– Reading textbooks or journal articles
– Writing papers
– Listening to professors drone on for three hours
– Working on Targum crossword puzzles while professors drone on for three hours
– Driving to New Brunswick twice a week
– Feeding the meter
– Getting parking tickets when trying to hide my car in Buccleuch Park
– Parking a mile away from school just to avoid any meters of any kind
– Carrying a backpack wherever I go
– Doing schoolwork at real work

And now, I get to face the exciting prospect of working for the next 40 years of my life. Yay? Well, at least the job market is terrible and my student health insurance is getting cut off in a month. Wait, what?

Can I have my backpack back?

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So, 12 breads in and I have had my first genuine failure. It was pretty disappointing as I was excited about the prospect of homemade English muffins, but it just wasn’t meant to be. It was a pretty basic recipe, and I didn’t even bother taking pictures of the ingredients pre and post mixing, so this blog is going to be somewhat of a failure as well. Anyway, the first picture I took was of the dough after I had kneaded it.

I let the dough rise, then divided it into 6 balls, then let them rise again. So far, so good.

This is when things started to head south. I turned the stove on to medium heat, but with an electric stove, it’s still hard for me to judge what medium really is. Once the cast iron skillet had warmed up, I threw on three balls of dough. Immediately, there was some sizzling, which started off as a good sign to me, but then I started to think that the skillet was probably too hot, so I turned it down. It proved to be too late, though, because after a couple of minutes, some of the muffins were starting to burn. However, the skillet wasn’t heating evenly, so some were burning while others were hardly cooking at all. Not good.

Aside from the fact that the muffins were burning, I was having a completely separate problem in the meantime. The book said that the balls of dough would start to flatten out once I put them on the skillet, but mine never did. They just sat there.

The book said that the muffins should cook for about 5-8 minutes on each side. It specifically says something to the effect of, “You’re going to think they need to be flipped before that, but trust me, they won’t burn.” Well, guess what—I know what burning smells like, and mine were definitely burning. So, I flipped them early. They were still completely round, and I was pretty frustrated at this point…so after I flipped them, I just flattened them myself.

I let them cook for another 5 minutes or so (at this point I knew they were no good, so I didn’t really care), and then threw them in the oven for 5 more minutes. This was the lovely finished product.

Yeah, they kind of look like English muffins, but that’s about it. They were very underdone in the center, so they obviously had no nooks and crannies. I do have to say, the flavor of the dough was reminiscent of English muffins—but the consistency was a complete failure.

Next: Focaccia.

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I feel like on so many occasions, no matter what I do over the course of my life, I keep ending up right back in places I’ve already been. Take, for instance, the completion of school. Back in May of 2007, I was getting ready to graduate from TCNJ. I think I sent out about 35 or so resumes, most of which I never heard back on, while a handful of employers were gracious enough to send back a “No thanks.” Job searching is the absolute worst—and here I am, a year and a half later, in the exact same boat. Only this time, I haven’t even had the opportunity to send out 35 resumes, because there are no jobs! Anyway, I thought it would be most appropriate to re-post a blog that I wrote in 2007, as a way to celebrate the wonderful phenomenon of coming full circle. Enjoy.


Dear Hiring Manager,

My interest in the advertised Traveling Birthday Clown position has prompted me to forward my resume to you. I am currently a senior at The College of New Jersey and will be graduating in May with a Bachelor’s degree in journalism. I am very excited about this position at Clowns “R” Us, and hope to be considered for it.

Okay, look, I’m going to level with you. I have been searching for jobs for a while now. I have sent out countless resumes, all to no avail. I am starting to consider myself to be a genuine failure and, honestly, if I don’t get a call back for an interview at Clowns “R” Us, I might just have to kill myself. Now that you know a little bit more about what makes me tick, please allow me to sell myself to you. Despite my inability to find employment in my target job market, I am still quite confident that I would prove to be an outstanding addition to your clown roster.

First of all, I would be great at birthday parties. I LOVE kids. I spent an entire summer working as an Athletics Specialist at a summer camp, and loved every minute of it. The children took a real liking to me as well. Although I was not invited back the following summer, I was assured that this was due purely to budget cuts and not the fact that I had been accused of dousing children with cups of water during my endless tennis sessions. Although these allegations were completely outrageous, I would say in my defense that those kids had it coming (even though I never did it).

I am also an expert at applying makeup, which would easily transfer to a great ability to apply face paint. As a matter of fact, after I put on my makeup, my friends often tell me that I look like a clown. The way I see it, I’m halfway there already—I just need some big shoes and I’ll be set! I am not extremely experienced in making balloon animals, but I am a very fast learner. I am also no stranger to plunging my face into pies. Granted, I have never performed this feat in front of an audience before. I just really love pie. I believe that all of these qualities will make me an exceptional candidate for this position.

I am looking forward to a bright future at Clowns “R” Us! I am all that a Traveling Birthday Clown should be, and much, much more! I hope to hear from you soon!

Best Regards,
Rachel Lazzaro

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I listened to Weezer’s new album, Raditude, a couple of weeks ago and have been spending lots of time trying to organize my many thoughts into one coherent statement. What it comes down to is that I’m one of those disagreeable “Weezer purists” because I think that every album after the Green Album has been disappointing, each one a little more so than the last. I think their decline in quality was caused by the terrible reviews that Pinkerton received when it first came out. Coming off of the success of the Blue Album, Pinkerton, to me, was Weezer at their Weeziest. This was Rivers Cuomo putting his best efforts into an album. Then, everyone hated it. I even hated it the first time I heard it. But, I kept listening to it at the behest of a fellow middle-schooler named Jon Dugan, and eventually came to love it. Once Pinkerton got trashed by critics, however, I believe Rivers Cuomo began his trend of writing for the masses. This can be most easily heard by listening to Pinkerton and the Green Album back to back. Now, I liked the Green Album—along with everybody else. But Pinkerton was like a person that it takes you a while to get to know, and eventually become friends with, and maybe you didn’t even like that person all that much to begin with. The Green Album is the jock, the popular kid who makes it impossible for you to dislike him because he’s just too cool and hip.

Basically, I think this was the pivotal point in Weezer’s history. There were a whole mess of albums to follow (some messier than others): Maladroit (so-so), Make Believe (yuck), the Red Album (I think I liked two songs), and the most recent Raditude. Of course, the first single to come from this album is a catchy and toe-tapping little number, which I can’t say I hate—but it’s just another throwaway-type song, nothing like the stuff they used to do. The best way for me to articulate how I feel about Weezer’s new material is this: it’s the type of stuff I can listen to on the treadmill. It’s gym music, not music that I can just sit with and listen to the album in its entirety.

BUT, here is the rub in my argument. A lot of times, I complain that Rivers Cuomo has dumbed down his songs to cater to a mass audience of teens and tweens (i.e. “Beverly Hills,” and the more recent “In the Mall”). However, what was he singing about in Pinkerton? Chasing after Asian girls, being awkward, essentially a lot of the same pubescent boy stuff. Granted, I still think the lyrics in Blue/Pinkerton are more artfully crafted than the new stuff, but that’s just me. Also, unlike my patience with Pinkerton, I listen to these new albums once, and that’s about it. Sometimes I wonder, “Am I just not giving it enough of a chance?” But, with songs like “Can’t Stop Partying” (feat. Lil Wayne) and “Love is the Answer” (I was done after 30 seconds), I think the answer is a resounding “No.”

Now, here was my epiphanic moment. If Rivers Cuomo didn’t really sell his soul, and has essentially been writing the same songs for the past 15 years…did Weezer really change, or did I change? Maybe I’ve just turned into a close-minded snob and will be destined to order kids to “turn down that Lil Wayne racket” while I sit quietly listening to “Only in Dreams” and “Across the Sea.”

What are your thoughts on this matter?

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I made this bread last week and it definitely turned out to be one of my favorites so far. The bread schedule also worked really well, because this is a great bread to have around the holidays. I started, as always, by mixing my dry (flour, sugar, salt, etc.) and wet (eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, lemon extract, yeast) ingredients.

Once they were mixed, I transferred the dough to the table and commenced with some kneading. Once the dough was adequately kneaded, I added the dried cranberries and chopped walnuts. I have to say, mixing fruit and nuts into dough is the one occasion I would really appreciate a stand mixer.

When the dough was finally done, I let it rise in an oiled bowl for a couple of hours.

After the first rise, I was supposed to divide the dough into three 6 oz. balls and three 3 oz. balls (or another similar ratio—I forget). I don’t yet have a kitchen scale (Christmas is coming, though), so I had to eyeball it. Then, I had to make two braided loaves, one big and one small. I then positioned the small braid on top of the large braid, brushed it with an egg wash, and let it rise again.

Then, it was ready to go in the oven. The bread baked for about 45-50 minutes at around 325 (I think). Needless to say, I ended up with a pretty huge loaf. The egg wash also gave it a beautiful, shiny crust.

I love this bread. The cranberries give it a nice touch of sweetness, and the buttermilk gave the dough a quality that I am having trouble articulating. It’s very light and soft, although soft isn’t really the best word for it. You should make it and find out for yourself.

Next on the list: English muffins!

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