Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Baking the Days Away

I've been doing a fair amount of baking these days.  I took a little time off but I'm back at it.  I made three mini-loaves of cheddar-garlic bread a few weeks ago and it was pretty good (needed more cheese and garlic... but I think everything does).  But I've been getting kind of bored with my same old recipe.  Joe and I stopped by Barnes and Noble the other day, as we like to do, to wander around.  Mainly he goes and salivates over nerdy computer books while I check out the bargain section and take photos of anything that looks interesting so I can remember to get it at the library (please see below for my explanation of how much I love libraries).  But I wasn't feeling great so I wandered over to the chairs which happened to be in front of the cookbook section and saw three books about baking bread right in front of me!  I flipped through them and found one really interesting with a lot of great information.  Unfortunately it was $30.00 and right now that's not in our budget in any kind of way. When we got home I found it online for about half price and snapped it up.  I'm really excited to get it next week and start trying some new stuff (and just learning about baking in general since I know nada!).

My soon to be Bible.

So like I said, I've been getting bored and so I decided to start trying some different stuff starting with... bagels.  I used an Emeril recipe from that looked pretty straight forward.  The whole process is definitely a long one with a lot of steps but it wasn't difficult.  I think the weirdest part was the whole boiling a pot of sugar water and having to dunk the bagels into it for a minute on each side.  I don't know if you've ever boiled dough before... but it's weird and... slimy.  However, when it was all said and done they looked like they were related to bagels...  red-headed step children of bagels perhaps, but related none the less, and were pretty tasty.  Joe was a pretty giant fan and I think he's eaten about 8 in the last 24 hours.  I wish I had taken pictures of the process... it was pretty neat, oh well... next time I guess!

And then this evening after I posted about The Help I was checking out all my friends' blogs and seeing what everyone is up to.  Marie's latest post on Recipeas and Musings included a picture of incredibly tasty looking sugar cookies and I knew that I needed to make cookies immediately.  I'm not usually a big sugar cookie person so I made snicker doodles and since Joe was at a meeting I knew he would be really excited when he got home.  Anyway, I threw the cookies together and they came out perfectly.  So drool away kids... drool away =)

Joe definitely enjoyed them.

"The dishonesty upon which a society is founded makes every emotion suspect"

This blog has been a compilation of my loves and hobbies, however I have managed to write about just about everything except the one "hobby" I've always claimed.  When people ask what I do for fun my first thoughts are "sleep... eat... watch trashy tv..."  but you don't say those things.  "Reading." I always say- not because it's socially acceptable, but because it's socially acceptable AND true.

I've loved books with a deep passion and been insatiable for them since I was a kid.  My mom used to take me to the library and let me check out books before I could even write, I must have been about three.  But I wanted every book, all the books.  My chubby, grubby little hands couldn't hold as many books as I needed.  Eventually she got sick of having to deal with her books and my books and she took me to the counter to get my own library card.  The librarian very kindly told my mother that unless I could write my name- no dice.  My mom, never easily deterred, took me home, taught me how to write my name and had me back at the library the same day.  The woman handed me the card, I wrote my name on the back, and then gripped it for dear life.  That card was gold- it was my ticket to life.  Mom and I would go to the library every week with a basket big enough for me to sit in and we would fill it to overflowing with books.  I'd get in the car and start "reading" them all.  Mom would read three books to me every night just about and the following week we'd start over.  I love books, have I mentioned that?

Oddly enough when I moved to Fredericksburg I developed a friendship with a girl named Ashley.  The love was immediate and complete.  And then I found out her mom was a librarian, and I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.  The daughter of a librarian is pretty much required by law to love books, so Ash and I shared that and in high school Rebekah joined us and we had ourselves a little book lovers group- such nerds.  Everytime we see each other we ask how things are, what's new, how is the family, have you read any good books recently?  We've been doing that since we were 15- again- such nerds.  Needless to say I've managed to surround myself with fellow book lovers- not just my best friends but my mother and sister, my husband, my mom's friends.  Anytime conversation dies down there's always the question of recent reads.

My taste in books tends to be a little dark for most of the people in my life.  My sister and I were discussing an audio book I loaned her and how much she loved it.  I told her that I had tried to get Mom to read it years ago but she never "got around to it."  Maggie (my sister) kind of hung her head a little and said "El, I have to tell you something... Mom thinks you only read really difficult and heavy books... so anytime you recommend something... well... she kind of ignores you."  I thought that was hilarious and called Joe in to tell him because he thinks the same thing, that all I read are books about child abuse, sexual assault, abusive men, suicide, blah blah blah.  But it's not entirely true.  I mean yes... I do enjoy reading books about difficult things.  I think there is such beauty in overcoming such darkness.  BUT!  It's not all I read.  And Joe has started to believe that I don't always seek these topics out, they find me.  I recently read The Art of Racing in the Rain which was an amazingly different story of love and devotion told from the perspective of the family dog.  It wasn't a "heavy" read, I chose it because it sounded so neat.  Halfway through the book the father was accused of child molestation and when I told Joe he immediately said "Oh God... another one Ellen?"  It finds me, I swear.

So anyway, I read a lot.  I like books.  I have diverse tastes in books.  I love a good book recommendation.  Maggie is in a book club and she tends to really enjoy what they read and ends up passing them on to me.  Under her direction I read Shanghai Girls, which I loved, as well as a couple others.  But most recently she gave me The Help.  Now let me start by saying I don't usually read a lot of stuff that I hate.  Most recently I read Housekeeping, which I truly hated, but I'd venture to say that's the first book in long time that I've despised (although I was no fan of Never Let Me Go).  So frequently I enjoy the books I read, maybe even really enjoy, but The Help... I loved.

The Help is set in Mississippi in the mid 1960s while the Civil Rights Movement is just revving up.  A white woman returns home from college and decides to work with the African American women who work as maids for white families in town to create a book of their stories.  And that is a very very brief summary.  When I was talking to Joe about it I was saying how when I think of severe racism and segregation I see it all in vivid... black and white.  I don't see it surrounded by air conditioning and color televisions.  But this novel reminds you, without beating you over the head, that racism was not dead just because skirts were getting short and hair was getting long- especially not in the south.  It is a beautiful account of love, faith, family, pain, heartache, and above all strength.  While I was reading I kept thinking "I don't know if I could have survived during all of this."  White women characters would make comments and I wanted to hit them, hard.  Children would be colorblind and I would want to praise them.  Women would put their lives on the line to tell a story, and I would be in awe of their strength.  Would I ever be that strong?

I enjoyed the book from the start, but as it started to come to a close I couldn't put it down.  I found myself laughing and crying at the same time, curled up on the couch in Joe's bathrobe with a box of Kleenex next to me.  Joe kept looking over at me like I was an absolute lunatic.  It isn't every day that a book comes along that allows to feel every emotion in the book and love every second of it.  And of course, when I was done I was sad it was over.  I was glad I am not living during that time.  And I was mad that society is still not all that different.  I won't get on my political soap box, as I've promised myself I will not do that in this forum, but I can say that different is not equal.  It wasn't in 1965 and it isn't now.  However- different is beautiful and I am so glad that I was lucky enough to grow up in a place where color was just that- a color, not a definition.

Read it.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Celebrity Love

Everyone has a celebrity crush at some point in their life.  A lot of my friends have always had rather huge celeb crushes- in fact my two best friends from high school were sitting at a red light with the windows down discussing, if I remember correctly, marrying Heath Ledger and got a little animated and a little loud... and looked over to see the guy in the car next to them staring at them like lunatics.  Don't get me wrong, I loved Heath and his giant dimples, but I wouldn't have fought them for the honor of being his wedded wife (sorry ladies).

My first celebrity crush was Jonathan Taylor Thomas.  This is rather amusing since I hated Home Improvement... I think I fell in love with him as Simba in The Lion King... which comes with it's own load of creepy.  But man he was cute, in lion form and human form.  I loved that kid.  However, I never rocked a JTT poster or bought Bop! so I could tape up the cover on my wall (although I did have a Lion King poster which I got for my tenth birthday along with a training bra... thanks Mom).

In high school and college when people asked who my favorite actor (read: celeb crush) was, I never really had an answer.  But I think I've been kidding myself.  I think I have a giant celebrity crush that I've been neglecting- and I think it started in 2001 with the release of "I Want Love" by Elton John.  No, Elton is not my crush, as adorable as he is.  When Elton was creating his music video Robert Downey Jr. had just finished up a shit ton of drug rehab stuff and was, I think, turning his life around for real for the first time.  Elton asked RDJ to be in the video and what they created is at once moving and a little creepy.  It's a beautiful song and the lyrics fit RDJ's situation so well.  When I saw the video for the first time my heart melted a little and I fell in love.  But I don't think I realized how in love I was until today.

Joe is out having a donut eating challenge with a friend of his so I'm wasting time watching a Toddlers in Tiaras marathon (a topic I could discuss for hours) and enjoying some OMG! from Yahoo.  They have a photo post about RDJ's fashion over the years and there was a picture of him with Elton and it mentioned the video, which I had forgotten about.  So I watched it again and *sigh*....  I just love him.  Not only is he handsome but he's struggled in life, like many celebrities, but he's owned up to his difficulties and maintained an honest sense of humor about it all.  I'm not one to watch "Inside the Actor's Studio" but once I caught his episode and he answered every question with a smile on his face and true answer.

So here I am.. owning up to my first true celeb crush.  Look, Joe, this is what happens when you leave me home alone.