Monday, March 14, 2011

Finding Happiness at the Bottom of a Measuring Cup: Banana Nut Scones

So I know I've been kind of delinquent with the blogging.  It's not that I haven't been cooking or baking, it's just that I've been neglecting to photographically document the process for your viewing pleasure.  But lucky for you guys I'm back on my game.

My roomie had a bunch of over ripe bananas in need of a home, so I thought I would oblige by baking something delicious with them.  I mean who doesn't love the challenge of finding a purpose for an ingredient before it passes to compost only status, and god knows there are a million yummy ways to dispose of spotty bananas.

I've been baking a lot of banana bread the last few months, so I thought I would mix it up and also make use of the open carton of buttermilk in my fridge (yeah, I'm thrifty, respect it).  Hence was born the banana nut scone!  I actually only used 2 bananas in mine and ended up wishing they were a little more chock-full of bananas, so I've adjusted the recipe below accordingly.  These are good plain, but I think they would be even more amazing with some honey drizzled on them or maybe some peanut butter spread across (yes, I'm also nuts for nuts).  Enjoy!

Banana Nut Scones

Adapted from “Our Finest Buttermilk Scones” in The Canadian Living Baking Book

    * 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    * 2 tbsp granulated sugar
    * 2 tbsp brown sugar
    * 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
    * 1/2 tsp baking soda
    * 1/2 tsp salt
    * 1/2 tsp cinnamon
    * dash of nutmeg
    * 1/2 cup cold butter, cubed (1 stick)
    * 1 cup buttermilk (can sub 1 cup milk w/ 1 tbsp lemon juice/vinegar added)
    * 1 egg
    * 1 tsp vanilla
    * 3 ripe bananas chopped
    * 3/4 cup chopped and toasted walnuts
    * 1 tbsp brown sugar for topping
    * 1/4 tsp cinnamon for topping

1. Spray a full sized cookie sheet with cooking spray. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. In large bowl, whisk together flour, both sugars, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Using pastry blender, or two knives, cut in butter until crumbly.  Alternatively you can throw all dry ingredients into a food processor and pulse until mixed.  Then add the butter and pulse until the butter is the size of very small peas, then transfer mixture to a large bowl.

3. In a separate bowl, whisk buttermilk with egg and vanilla. Pour over flour mixture. Stir to make a soft, ragged dough. Then gently mix in bananas and walnuts

4. With lightly floured hands, press dough into ball. On floured surface, knead gently a few times to bring dough together.  Pat out into a long rectangle.  Cut rectangle into 6 smaller rectangles, then cut these diagonally to form 12 trangle shaped scones. Place on prepared pan.

5. Mix together the brown sugar and cinnamon for topping and then sprinkle evenly over all 12 scones.

6. Bake scones in center of oven until golden, 15-20 minutes. I like to rotate the cookie sheet half way through baking since my oven is small and doesn’t heat very evenly. Remove scones from oven when done and transfer to rack and let cool.

Ready to hit the oven

All baked and ready to munch on : )

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Life is still out there and I'll live it when I'm ready

I haven't been very happy lately, but I desperately want to be.

I want to have fun when I'm doing things I know are fun. 

I want to feel loved and not alone when I'm surrounded by friends.

I want to feel in control when I know I'm already doing the things I need to do when I need to do them.

I guess I want a lot of things and most of those things are based on some standard of what I think the normal person is supposed to feel or experience.  But maybe there is no normal and what I really need is a breather from all these expectations that I set for myself.

Life really is grand and the world really is beautiful, but I think it's ok to forget that sometimes because when I come back around it still will be and I'll actually be ready to appreciate that. 

Right now I'm just going through the motions.  My life is like the cliffs notes of a novel.  The basic plot and major devices are there but the real heart and soul are missing.  I have moments of clarity and joy but they tend to be effervescent.  I'd like to think that the brevity is made up for by the fact that those feelings are genuine.

I don't need to be anything, I just need to be.  When I'm ready the rest will happen.


Sunday, March 6, 2011

Antibiotics for the Soul

Confession: I started seeing a therapist about a month ago.

I tell all my friends therapy is a great thing.  I was deeply involved in my college’s peer counseling program.  I’m about to be a health care professional and I really do believe that therapy and mental health support services can change and help people in immeasurable ways.

Despite all this, going was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made.

Now that I’ve started seeing someone it doesn’t seem like a big deal at all.  I talk to my friends about it openly and don’t feel self-conscious.  I even told Samuel Whiskers, back when I was still emailing him and I hadn’t completely walled myself off, that I was going and even now it doesn’t feel like a loss of face.  It really was just getting over the hump of picking up the phone and making an appointment.

So why did that seem like such a huge, insurmountable task which I couldn’t possibly bring myself to do at the time?

I guess I was just too proud. 

I thought that needing to go to therapy was admitting defeat.  That it meant the life and support system that I had built was not enough.  It meant that I didn’t have enough friends or they didn’t love me or tolerate me enough to get me through a rough patch.  It meant that my willpower wasn’t strong enough to put aside the hurt and carry on with my life I after I had tripped and fallen.  It meant that this really was a big deal and something I just couldn’t handle.

But here’s the thing.  When I did call it was because I was defeated.  I just needed to realize that this was my Waterloo.

Even though I’m glad I’m in therapy and I really do look forward to that hour every week, I still struggle with the idea that this was my breaking point.  It was three months.  It was fun and made me really happy, but I think mainly in a superficial way.  I was not in love.  So why does this feel like the denouement of my life and not of a passing relationship?

If I had felt this way after my previous relationship I tell myself that it would have been easier to swallow.  I had invested not just three years of my life, but my whole heart and being in him.  I thought I was going to marry him and that was going to be the rest of my life. 

It wasn’t, obviously. 

So shouldn’t having my whole life plan turned on end have been the great event which sent me to my knees?  Surprisingly it wasn’t and I can’t figure out why.

Right now I tell myself that it was a combination of stresses that weighed on me.  I still had unresolved feelings over my last relationship and probably still do.  I constantly have doubts about the career path I’ve chosen.  I’m overworked and under rested.  But in reality I feel like those are generic umbrella excuses which don’t come close to explaining why I was so cut to the quick.

I’m obsessed with finding the answer because deep down I feel like it’s the key to a cure.

Once upon a time people thought germ theory was crazy.  The concept that something tiny and virtually invisible could cause so much death and destruction was inconceivable and the institution of medicine resisted this theory for decades if not centuries, allowing and probably being the cause of thousands of deaths.  It took so long to find cures for diseases because physicians refused to believe that there was a sincere cause to be found.

I am looking for my germ. 

It may be invisible now, but I am determined to use every avenue available to find it.  I know it’s na├»ve to think that I will be able to pinpoint the source of all my vulnerability and suffering so accurately, but the thing is simple answers are discovered every day, and they were missed before because people didn’t have the faith and simplicity of mind to believe they could exist.

I’m not afraid to look.  If there's a germ then maybe there's a penicillin too.          


Thursday, March 3, 2011

The little things in life, 3/3/11

So I know I'm a day late. 

I'm totally ok with that by the way.  I'm trying this whole staying on top of the major things in life without being a total nazi and feeling guilty over all the little things that I can always get back to later.  It's actually working out pretty well...

You know those nature videos where they film a plant for a month and then they speed up the film so you can actually see the plant growing and flowering even though in real life the whole process was excruciatingly slow?  I'm hoping my life will be like that.  On a day to day basis it seems like I'm going nowhere.  But maybe when I look back in a year or multiple years from now I'll say, "wow, a lot really did change and I really did grow and it was pretty cool." 

We'll see.

Someone making a real movie out of my life and cutting out all the lame parts like me having to write inane pointless term papers and picking up hair tumble weeds off my bedroom carpet would also be pretty good.  Hint, hint, future blockbuster makers of America.  Maybe Anne Hathaway would be a good choice? 

But anyhow, this week:

1) I racked up enough rewards points on my credit card to get a free $100 gift card to bloomingdale's.

  See, sometimes you don't even have to buy happiness, corporate America will give it to you for free or in exchange for your undying loyalty.

2)  Finding a super cute Hawaiian themed bar, Lani Kai, which not only serves awesome drinks but also has my favorite fake-chinese food appetizer: crab rangoon. 

If you go by the way they call them "crab wontons" instead.  Apparently they're crab rangoon's slightly classier fraternal twin, made with mascarpone instead of cream cheese and real crab instead of imitation crab stick.  They tasted just as good.  I'm totally going back for happy hour when they're half priced.

3) Going to a super fun dinner at my professor's house with some classmates.

She and her husband were great, the antipasti, brownies and wine were phenomenal and it renewed my fairth that you really can grow up to have a successful career and a family and look good, be happy and be yourself while doing it.  I guess the feminist movement really did change things.  Thanks ladies, I owe you one.

- Cottontail

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Finding Happiness at the Bottom of a Measuring Cup: Carnitas Tacos

Being from the Golden State, I often find myself lamenting the lack of good taquerias in Manhattan.  Sure there are Mexican restaurants, but they mainly seem to divide into dirt-cheap and practically dirt-quality Tex Mex or upscale restaurants that produce respectable, but not awesome food at prices that would still seem laughable in California even if those numbers were pesos, not dollars.

So the solution to this dearth of quality, cheap, south of the border eats?  Make your own!  My sister and I decided to embark on this project by tackling a taqueria staple, carnitas.  For those of you who haven't had the privilege, carnitas is pork that has been slowly braised until tender and then is crisped at the end to give juicy, crispy pork morsels that make an unbeatable filling for tacos, burritos, you name it.

After cruising a few recipes on the internet and making a survey of what ingredients I actually own, I came up with this recipe.  The cooking time is a while, around 2.5 hours, but the amount of active work is quite minimal.  Also the leftovers reheat really well.  I usually toss mine in a nonstick pan to get it extra crispy the second time around.

Carnitas tacos

For tacos:
Corn tortillas
Canned black beans (or homemade if you're like that)
Guacamole/sliced avocado
Whatever other toppings your heart desires

For Carnitas:
3-4 lbs pork shoulder divided into thick slices/segments
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large yellow onion cut into thick wedges
3 cloves of garlic peeled
1/2 orange cut into two wedges
3 cups chicken stock
Garlic salt
Fresh ground black pepper

1) Preheat oven to 350 F
2) Generously season pork with garlic salt and pepper on all sides
2) Melt butter and olive oil together in a large heavy pot like a Dutch oven.  Once oil and butter are very hot add pork and sear until brown.  Turn the pieces periodically to brown all sides.
3) Squeeze juice from oranges onto the pork and then add the rinds to the pot. Add onion, garlic cloves and top off with chicken broth.
4) Arrange the pieces of pork so they are mainly submerged in broth. Cover the pot tightly with a lid (cover tightly with foil if your lid fits loosely, before replacing the lid) put the pot in the oven and let braise for 1.5 -2 hours, until the pieces of pork are tender and can be shredded with a fork.
5) Remove pot from oven. Remove orange rinds from pot and discard. Using a fork or tongs shred pork into small pieces and mash onions and garlic cloves into the pork
6) Place pot back on burner and over medium-high heat allow the liquid to boil off, stirring the pork periodically to prevent burning until almost all the liquid has been absorbed by the pork or has evaporated.
7) Assemble tacos: Heat a tortilla and place heated beans, carnitas, salsa, avocado and any additional toppings in a row down the center of the tortilla. Fold in half and eat!

These Carnitas would also make a great base for other dishes like quesadillas, the filling for tamales or a yummy braised pork sandwich with barbecue sauce.


Monday, February 28, 2011

I hate Mondays

I hate Mondays. 
Specifically I hate Mondays where you wake up and the sky is still dark because there are so many rainclouds.  Memo weather gods: It’s almost spring, please work on that. 
I hate Mondays where it feels like the weekend never happened and you have tons of work hanging over your head like a guillotine about to drop.
I hate Mondays where no matter how cute your outfit is and cooperative your hair is you still don’t feel pretty on the inside.
I hate Mondays where the button pops off your coat and you have to chase it along the sidewalk like an idiot.  I know I should be thankful that it just barely got caught in the grate instead of falling into the abyss known as the NYC sewer system, but I’m having a tough time appreciating the half full part of life today.
I hate Mondays when none of my favorite TV shows have aired yet, so I have nothing to watch to cheer me up, or at least to escape from my own life for approximately 43 minutes plus the time taken up by those annoying hulu commercials.
And worst of all I hate not knowing how to shake off being unhappy. 
I’m sincerely hoping this is just a Monday thing.  Orphan Annie you best not be lying to me, I could use some rays and I promise I wont even worry about the skin cancer risks.  I wear sunscreen even on cloudy days anyhow.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Under Pressure

Last night I spent some time with my good friends Flopsy and Mopsy.  We’re young, we have our careers on track, we live in Manhattan and we have great friends who are around to celebrate the good times and to hand out tissues and hugs during the bad.  We are living the dream of most 20 something American girls.

So why don’t I feel like my life is a movie?

I’m starting to think that getting to this point in life, or just being successful in general can be a catch 22.  Yes part of it’s luck, anyone who’s ever gotten one of those ridiculous “you were great, but we just couldn’t take you” rejection letters knows that, but most of it is drive. 

I would argue that everyone grows up with an image of who they want to be whether they’re conscious of this or not.  This image will change and grow as we do, but ultimately there’s always an ideal, a prototype of the self you want to become.

As a kid I was painfully shy.  I just wanted people to like me and to think that I was smart and fun and pretty, and maybe even have people wish they were me.  I mean imitation is the most sincere form of flattery right?  And honestly as weird as it sounds, I don’t think I’ve ever stopped being that awkward, uncomfortable kid.

As I grew up I pushed myself to work harder in school.  I pushed myself to just do things because I liked them and to put aside my fears of what other people would think or say.  I pushed myself to act like the ideal that I had in my head and through the process of learning to take on that role it stopped being a role and I really did find me.

I realized I am smart and I am pretty and if I just act like myself and let go it’s easy for people to like me.  But the thing is, even though I’ve met all those goals for myself and I’m finally that girl I’ve always wanted to be who juggles school and a social life and who gets what she wants, all while looking charming and collected and I would even go as far as to say pretty damn stylish while doing it, I can’t stop the push. 

In the end no matter how many life tasks I check off my list or how much validation I hear from others all the pressure and anxiety that I feel to be that perfect self is still omnipresent and it’s all coming from inside me.

I once thought that I would become this person and then I would feel happy and settled, but that’s not the case at all.  Now that I’m here I feel the need to constantly defend my position, like some fire breathing dragon sitting on a golden egg and anytime a potential crack in this image starts to snake in I’m sent into a complete panic.

Of course I know that screwing up and forgetting to go to a class or a meeting I was supposed to attend doesn’t mean I’m a complete failure who can’t cut it in school or in life.  Of course I know one jerk of a guy dumping me isn’t an indication of me not being beautiful or not being good enough.  But in the moment, that’s exactly how I do feel and no matter how many times my painfully logical brain tells the pit in my stomach these things it often seems impossible to chase those feelings of failure and inadequacy away.

When the majority of your life is in order it just makes the screw ups stand out that much more.  And being a person who works hard and wants everything, when those screw ups happen I’m not going to shrug my shoulders and walk away, I’m going to say, “how could I have been better?  How could I have done that wrong? What is wrong with me?”

But sometimes I can’t do better, because I’m a girl, not a robot.

Frustrating right?

I’m not saying I’m not happy with who I am or the life I have.  When I sit down and tally everything up and look at what I have and the person I’ve become I really am proud.  But when you’re running from class, to a study session, to the gym, to the shower, to dinner, to the bar to meet your friends when will you ever have time to stop and pat yourself on the back and say “wow, I’m pretty awesome and the life I’ve built is pretty awesome.”  I really don’t have that time, because that would require stopping and coming up for air.

So maybe I need to work on being more forgiving of myself.  Maybe I need to ease up on all those internal deadlines or at least ask myself if trying to stick to them is really helping me along or just creating more guilt and disappointment because I’m not on schedule.  Some things in life can’t be scheduled, and getting angry at myself because a whole month has passed and I’m still not over Samuel Whiskers or because I still don’t know exactly what specialty in my career I’m in love with in the end just makes it that much harder to be happy with myself. 

Some things in life aren’t perfect, something’s in life take time and I need to realize that there will always be enough of it in the end.  What’s the point in being young anyhow?


Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The little things in life, 2/23/11

1) Finally cashing in on a Tasting Table Special. 

For those of you who don't know about Tasting Table, it's a daily foodie email newsletter (they do them for several US cities) and here in New York they also have special dinners and deals for members.  I've been meaning to do one since I signed up for TT over a year ago and now I have.

I went to an awesome "Huntsman's Feast" at James restaurant in Brooklyn with my dear sister.

Check out the menu:
FIRST rabbit pistachio terrine with pear mostarda and grilled country bread
SECOND grilled quail with truffled polenta and medjool date vinaigrette
THIRD venison osso buco with parsnip puree roasted brussels sprouts and pomegranate laurel jus
DESSERT mom’s plum pudding with armagnac butter creme

It was yum, obviously.  And it was my first time eating venison and I really liked it. Win win.

2) Getting up the nerve to buy something from Gilt Groupe.

I have been a member of Gilt Groupe (an online flash designer sale site) for even longer than I've been a member of TT but I've always been too scared to order anything because I hate paying $10 shipping and you can only return for store credit.  Well this weekend I fell in love and decided to take the plunge and I'm so glad I did because I love my new dress!

Here it is on the model:

3) Initiating stage 1 of my home beautification project.

So I've been talking a big talk about making my apartment more homey and learning to love it and settling in and last night I actually walked the walk.  Actually there wasn't a lot of walking involved, a lot more construction paper, scissors and glue, but you get the idea.

I tacked up these lovelies along the bottom of my closet door.  Sometimes when you're stuck in what seems like a perpetually frigid, concrete jungle you have to be your own spring : )

So I guess the moral of the story for this week is that sometimes you just need to go for it.  I'm a perpetual planner and keep 100s of lists of things to do or see, but somehow in the shuffle of everyday life most of these fall by the wayside or get relegated to that "later" category and they never end up happening.  

Was I busy and did I almost bail on the dinner because I was scared I wouldn't have time to study for my Friday test?  Absolutely.  Am I glad I went through with it? Absolutely.  Was I afraid the dress wouldn't fit/wouldn't look the same in person and I would be stuck with over $100 in store credit and still be paralyzed with indecision?  Definitely.  Is the dress absolutely perfect and does it make me feel happy and beautiful now that it's in my possession? Definitely.  Would I have gotten more sleep if I hadn't gone all craft-crazy last night? Of course.  Do I care now that it's today? Not at all!

If you've been wanting to do something for a long time than chances are it's sometime worth doing and taking out a little time or taking on a little risk for.  If you don't believe me then pick up a social psych textbook.  You really do regret the things you didn't do more than the things you did.  It's science, don't argue.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Finding Happiness at the Bottom of a Measuring Cup: Girl Scout Cupcakes

So a few weeks ago my mom asked me if I wanted her to order me any girl scout cookies.  I have to admit it was very tempting, but when it came down to it I realize I only have limited tummy space and I’d rather save it for all the stuff that I want to try baking instead of wasting it on store bought stuff I’ve had before.  Despite this realization I had to fulfill my Girl Scout cookie craving somehow! 

Thus the Girl Scout cookie cupcake series was born.

So I perused some blogs and my cupcake bible (Martha Stewart’s Cupcakes) and came up with cupcake variations on these three Girl Scout favorites: Tagalongs, Thin Mints and Samoas.


The Tagalong: Peanut Butter-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes

Makes 12 cupcakes and adapted from Martha Stewart's cupcakes

For chocolate part:
2/3 cup all purpose flour
½ tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
½ cup unsalted butter
6 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
¾ cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
2 tsp vanilla extract

For peanut butter swirl:
4 tbsp unsalted butter, melted
½ cup powdered sugar
¾ cup smooth peanut butter
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp pure vanilla extract

1)    Preheat oven to 325°F and line a muffin tin with paper liners.
2)    For chocolate batter whisk together flour, baking powder and salt and set aside
3)    In a microwave melt chocolate and butter together.  I like to heat for 30 seconds then stir and repeat until it’s ready to avoid the chocolate separating or burning. Let cool slightly.
4)    Stir granulated sugar, eggs and vanilla into chocolate butter mixture then mix in dry ingredients from step 2.
5)    In a separate bowl stir together the peanut butter swirl ingredients.  I usually keep my peanut buter in the fridge so a few seconds in the microwave made the task more manageable.
6)    Spoon 2 tbsp of chocolate batter into each cupcake paper, then top with 1 tbsp peanut butter mix, then 1 tbsp chocolate batter, then 1 tsp peanut butter.  Swirl batter together gently with a toothpick or small knife.
7)    Bake in oven for 40 minutes, rotating pan half way through baking time
8)  Eat with a tall glass of milk

The Thin Mint: Dark chocolate mint cupcakes

 Makes 18 cupcakes and adapted from Martha Stewart's cupcakes

For cupcake:
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 ½ cup sugar
1 ½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
2 eggs
¾ cup butter milk, or regular milk with ¾ tbsp of lemon juice added to it and let sit
3 tbsp veggie oil
2 tsp peppermint extract
¾ cup warm water

1)    Preheat oven to 350°F and line a muffin tin with paper liners.
2)    In a large bowl whisk together flour, cocoa, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt.
3)    Add eggs, buttermilk, oil, extract and water and mix until just combined.
4)    Divide batter evenly into 18 cupcake papers and bake 20 minutes or until a toothpick/knife comes out clean with no wet crumbs stuck to it.
5)    Let cool then ice with dark chocolate mint icing.

For Icing:

¼ cup plus ½ tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ cup plus ½ tbsp hot water
1 1/8 cup unsalted butter (2.25 sticks) at room temperature
1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp powdered sugar
1/8 tsp salt
¾ lbs semi-sweet chocolate melted and cooled
2 tsp peppermint extract

1)    Combine cocoa and hot water and stir until cocoa has dissolved and then let cool
2)    In a mixer beat butter, sugar and salt until light and fluffy
3)    Add in melted chocolate, cocoa powder mixture and peppermint extract and beat until smooth
4)    Ice cupcakes.  If the icing seems too runny you can stick it in the fridge for 5-10 minutes to help it stiffen up.

The Samoa

I used a recipe from a lovely blog called Bakers Royale to make these beauties.  I was also lazy and left off the chocolate drizzle at the end, but feel free to be an overachiever and include that step.  Just to warn you the icing is quite sweet so you may want to cut back on the powdered sugar and taste test as you go (the best part!).


Sunday, February 20, 2011

How I love and hate you, the unexpected

I want a life of passion.  Of Tolstoyan romance that defies wars and social conventions and sanity.  The depth of love that makes all these daily responsibilities like jobs and emails and meals seem petty.
I’ve always been a person of strong emotions but I’ve never really understood why.  Maybe it’s because I also have an insatiable craving for control so that I constantly strive to limit my feelings and mold them and try to put them into neat boxes until one day they all break free like mutinous pirates or raucous zoo animals. 
But how can I live otherwise?
Those daily tasks aren’t really petty in the life I lead.  I need to make the grade, I need to wash my dishes, I need to function and I can’t do that with so much uninhibited emotional intensity constantly running rampant.  So I go through life until something or someone sneaks up on me, like a spider creeping along skin and I never know I’ve been bitten until it’s too late.
I’m not sure which I’m more afraid of, rolling back my sleeve and finding that red wheal or never having it happen at all. 

Saturday, February 19, 2011

When a house becomes a home

Dear subconscious,
Please stop dreaming about certain someones of the long tailed, pointy nosed and undersized waistcoat variety.  I’m trying to be over all this and you are not making mornings any easier.  Also please stop sending both pleasant and unpleasant experiences to remind me of times I spent with said someone.  It’s not cute, it’s annoying.

Just kidding, this Samuel Whiskers doesn’t actually look like that.  I’m really picky about guys and the undersized waistcoat would definitely be a deal breaker.  But on the dreams I’m totally serious.  At least send me dreams of actual rats with cute white spots, or even scuttling along the subway.  Believe me, things would be better that way.  Weekend mornings are a low point for me and I think this adjustment would make a huge difference.

This should be a glorious day.  Yeah it’s overcast, yes I have a ton of work to catch up on, but how many holiday weekends come a year?  Not enough.  So why should a Saturday morning when I have a whole three days stretched out ahead of me feel so awful?  I miss all the things that could have filled it.

Which gets me to thinking.  One of the hardest parts of this isn’t losing Samuel Whiskers himself.  I wasn’t in love, we weren’t best friends, so shouldn’t this be easier than with the other guys? Surprisingly not.

I think I’ve finally localized the lesion.  I miss the routine.  I miss being in a relationship.  I miss having someone to go to sleep with almost every night and someone to eat my from-scratch pancakes in the morning.  I guess what I’m saying is I’m lonely and having a default someone there to care and be relatively omnipresent was really comforting.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not the kind of girl who will jump into a relationship with just any guy to have that security blanket.  If I was I wouldn’t be single right now; there are always options.  But I do think that missing having that person was one of the reasons I let thinks burn so fast and hot with Samuel Whiskers.  In the course of a week we went from casual hookup to me sleeping over 5-6 days a week.  It was whirlwind, it was intense and I have to admit I loved every second of it.

I was dying to fall into that pattern and when the opportunity arose with someone I was attracted to and connected with (this is actually a pretty rare occasion) I took it and ran.  I basically didn’t live at my apartment for the 6 weeks leading up to Christmas break and honestly, not sleeping here never bothered me.

Well I’m ready to change that.  Hello surprisingly spacious, university owned apartment.  I’m ready to make you my home so when the next guy comes knocking I wont feel like I have to co-opt his.

Yes I know I can’t fix the empty place in my heart with stacks of House Beautiful magazine or all the domestic crafts projects in the world, but I think I do need to buy into the life I have now.  There may not be someone to eat my whole wheat banana walnut pancakes in the morning, but I think I’m learning to be ok with that. 

Because there is someone and she’s me.  And she’s actually pretty fun to hang out with.  And let’s be brutally honest now.  Those whole wheat banana walnut pancakes with only egg whites weren’t that good.  I’d way rather have white flour blueberry-banana ones with real butter instead of that synthetic crap you keep in your fridge Samuel Whiskers.  And I want eggs that have shells and look like they might actually be related to a chicken, not some strange cloudy fluid coming out of a carton and looking like it would make you into a comic book super-villain if you fell into an industrial sized vat of it.

I’m ready to reclaim my life and learn to love just being with me even if that’s a slow process that has to happen one pancake at a time.  Ok, maybe two, I was pretty hungry.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The little thing in life, 2/16/10

1) Strawberries are back to 2 boxes for $4 at the local sketchball fruit stands.  You know what that means? Return of the strawberry-nutella-eggo waffle!!!!  Ok, it's not actually eggo brand since I'm poor. It's generic costco brand, but you know what I mean.

Don't worry.  I also put strawberries in my steel cut oatmeal and yogurt parfaits so I'm not gonna die of a coronary or lose my revenge bod anytime soon.

2) I cashed in on my free lobster roll at Luke's Lobster.  Another love of my life...

3) I got my computer fixed for free!  Did I mention it was supposed to be $150 bucks and my computer is 3 years out of warranty?  Apparently there really are nice guys out there, and they work at the Apple store. 

So you may have noticed a theme to this week's little things.  I mean what recent college grad doesn't love saving a little cash?  In fact those of you who don't appreciate a deal whatever age you are probably need your head examined...


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Where there’s smoke there may not always be fire, but I’m sick of getting burned while checking.

I’m glad I take chances and put myself out there.  I want to find love and this is an inevitable part of the process.  But what I’m just starting to realize is that risks come in degrees.  There is jumping off a pool diving board and there is jumping out of a plane.  Being willing to do one and not the other does not make you a huge wimp.  It probably means you actually have good judgment and some sense of self-preservation.

I’m realizing I don’t have the best judgment. 

About school and time management? Mostly.  About my friend’s relationships? Usually.  About my relationships? Not so much.

I’m someone who over thinks everything.  I used to believe that this meant I was flushing out all the angles and lining up the pros and cons and ultimately arriving at the best decision possible.  Well turns out the person who makes the winning argument isn’t always on the right side, and it’s especially easy to win the argument when I’m having it against an opponent I know well.  Myself. 

When it comes to issues where I am genuinely torn I think the internal debate really does work. But let’s stop kidding ourselves here.  When it comes to boys who are cute and smart and fun I already know what I want. 

Yes I am aware there are consequences that weigh against going for these boys.  But if you were a kid sitting there holding an ice cream that had just been handed to you would you really not eat it because somewhere down the road it might give you a cavity?  Even if that cavity lead to horrific dental mayhem and you ended up needing denchers and having to go through thousands of dollars of very painful surgery? No, of course not, you would eat the ice cream.

I pretty much always eat the ice cream, but the thing is I’m not a kid anymore and I really should know better. 

I knew Samuel Whiskers was someone who used girls and threw them away and then went back for round 2.  I knew he was someone who had a lot of growing up to do and had a long road to cover before he would ever commit for the long run.  But I did it anyway, knowing I was vulnerable, knowing my life was put together more precariously than that dinosaur diorama I made in first grade and knowing that if I got hurt I would fall very, very hard.

So how did I talk myself into it?

Fail # 1: First I told myself I wasn’t serious about it and just wanted to have fun and mess around.
I’ve only slept with 3 people in my life, including Samuel Whiskers.  I have never had sex with someone where it didn’t lead to a serious long-term relationship.  Who was I kidding? Apparently only me.

Fail # 2: I already knew I liked his personality. 
If I like a guy’s personality and think he’s attractive am I really going to resist wanting him to be my boyfriend? No.  People who think friends with benefits works take note.

Fail # 3: When he did start acting serious and things started moving fast I just let him take the reins and figured I’d just follow along and only wade in as deep as he was going. 
Why would anyone follow and rely on the relationship judgment of someone who has had nothing but hookups and 2-3 month long relationships for the past 8 years of their adult life?  They obviously have no clue what they’re doing.  If the first 10 trials don't work, will 11 really be any different?  This seems to be a case of the blind leading the pretending to be blind.

So what do I now realize was my underlying reason for always finding a way to talk myself into these idiotic decisions? I secretly wanted to be the one. 

You know, the girl who is so amazing that she changes everything and makes a guy realize that he’s been a fool and his whole life is complete now that he’s met her.  Yeah, that girl doesn’t exist so no one is going to be her, including me. 

As I’m learning now, change comes from looking within and being ready to be critical, harsh and to be disappointed in yourself.  Someone who is waiting for the perfect girl is never going to grow and change because they don’t realize that the change needs to be made on the inside on their end. 

What I need to do now is remember this truth.  If a guy has a red flag up, there is a reason and I need to listen.  Yes you only find love if you take risks, but that just means that even the best relationships with the best guy can bring you some pain, it doesn’t mean you should run headlong into a burning building hoping it wont collapse around you. 

And what about giving people a chance and that one in a million times that a guy really can change?  Well change is internal and if he really wants me and cares than he can work on changing on his own and settle for being my friend while he goes through that process.  If I really am the girl who inspires that change and that effort than he will wait for me and prove to me that it has actually happened before expecting me to jump in.  If he can’t wait, then he obviously doesn’t have the work ethic and patience required to become a better person who knows what they want and will be there in the long run. 

I am done being some boy’s guinea pig.  I’m a rabbit.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Finding Happiness at the Bottom of a Measuring Cup: Black Bottom Cupcakes

So one thing I love to do that usually cheers me up is cooking/baking.  And even if the actual process doesn't help my mood drastically, who doesn't feel better after eating something delish?  I thought it would be fun to share some of these recipes so you guys all have them on hand when you might be needing a pick me up, or are just wanting to fill a hungry tummy.

This time I thought I'd go with something simple and nostalgic.  My mom used to make these for us as kids and they're still every bit as yummy as I remember.  For those of you who haven't had a black bottom cupcake, it's basically a chocolate cupcake with a cheesecake-chocolate chip filling on top.  I usually find a whole slice of cheesecake too rich to handle, so these cupcakes are the perfect dose for me.

Another plus about this recipe is you can do all the steps by hand.  No fancy equipment needed, just some bowls, spatulas and some stirring.  You can even count the stirring as a mini workout if you want : ) Make sure to get all the lumps out of the cream cheese part!

This recipe makes 12 giant cupcakes, or 24 more modest sized ones.  If you want to make 24, just fill each cup 1/3 full and add about a teaspoon of the cream cheese mixture on top.

Black Bottom Cupcakes

1 ½ cups flour
1 cup sugar
1tsp baking soda
¼ cup cocoa powder

1 cup water
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350° F
1) In a medium bowl stir together flour, 1 cup sugar, baking soda and cocoa powder.
2) In a separate small bowl whisk together water, oil, vinegar and vanilla, then pour into medium bowl with dry ingredients.  Stir until just combined.
3) In a separate bowl beat together cream cheese, egg and 1/3 cup sugar until smooth.  Stir in chocolate chips.
4) Pour chocolate batter into prepared cupcake tin with paper liners. Should make 12 big cupcakes, each approximately 2/3 full.
5) Spoon a heaping mound of cream cheese-chocolate chip mixture onto each portion of chocolate cupcake batter
6) Bake cupcakes at 350° F for 18-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out cleanly with no wet batter after poking a cupcake (this can be a little confusing since the melty chocolate chips will stick to the toothpick, so make sure to differentiate between melted chocolate and raw batter when you check).
7) Share them with friends (or just eat them all yourself, it's ok, sometimes you need it).

- Cottontail

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Long lost works of art

I’m happy with myself and what I look like.  I know this is something that a lot of girls struggle with, and believe me I did, but I’m finally at a point in my life where I’m happy and satisfied with my body and my looks in general.  I think I’m pretty.  I think I’m fit. Maybe this is arrogant, but I’d rather risk that than having to add one more thing to a list of insecurities.  I wish I could say that feeling this way about myself gives me peace, but unfortunately it doesn’t.  Here’s the truth.

Maybe this isn’t a common problem, but it’s a feeling I get a lot now.  I’ll be hanging around my room, taking a break from studying and I’ll look in the mirror and think “wow, this is an especially pretty moment for me.” You know those moments.  When your hair falls in just the right way and your makeup is the perfect medium between fresh and smudgy and your face isn’t puffy or blotchy or any of the annoying things that can go wrong.  It’s perfect. 

This sounds like a great thing right? It’s not that simple.  I’m not happy in these moments.  In fact I’m downright sad. 

Why is that?  Because I’m overwhelmed with a feeling of disappointment that no one is there to see me and appreciate me then.  I feel like a great work of art that’s been forgotten in a lonely corner of someone’s attic.  I feel like that moment is wasted because it hasn’t been witnesses by someone else, mainly a guy someone else and mainly Samuel Whiskers lately. 

But when you get down to it, a Rafael is still a Rafael and a beautiful, priceless work whether someone is there to look at it or not.  So why do I feel so incomplete when I’m alone?  I think I may have just answered my own question.  Price. 

Beauty is one thing.  Value is another.  In these moments I think I’m looking for an appraisal.  Somehow I have bought into the notion that the only value of being pretty is so other people will desire you.  It turns out that in the end I am my own biggest objectifier.

So how can I fight this feeling? I don’t know, but there is one time when I’m looking at myself in a mirror and I’m happy with what I see and I don’t care if anyone sees me at all.  It’s when I’m working out.  Maybe it’s just because I don’t really want people to see me sweaty and with my ponytail askew, but I think the real reason is that when I’m at the gym I’m focused on the process of being healthier, happier and getting to my ideal bod.  Looking in the mirror at these times is a validation that my hard work really is paying off and I realize that it’s worth a lot because god knows I’m expending the effort to get there during these moments.

So maybe when I look in the mirror I need to think about what went into getting where I’m at and not who will be there to like me when I’m actually there.  Honestly I really have no idea if this will work or what else I can do, but at least I’ve recognized I have a problem now, and isn’t that always the first step?


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The little things in life, take 1

I over think everything.  In some respects this is a good thing.  It helps me learn and grow as a person and be creative and efficient, but on the other hand, it causes me an insane amount of stress.  My worst fear about this blog is that it will spiral into a pit of me being overly critical, overly reflective and ultimately losing sight of the fact that life really does have good parts to it. 
So to prove to myself that life really is great even when it doesn’t feel that way I’m starting a weekly segment.  Every Wednesday I will force myself to come up with 3 good things that happened that week just to keep it all in perspective. 
Oh and ps, a key rule: none of those 3 things can be boy related. 
I know this isn’t an issue now, but realistically I am a person who derives a lot of happiness from guys when things are going right and a lot of misery from them when things are going wrong.  I might feel hopeless and alone right now, but I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before some wannabe prince charming walks in and starts trying to stir things up.  This segment in particular needs to be a reminder that the rest of life does go on with or without a guy, including the good parts.
This time I’m going to fudge on the week and reach back a bit further.  I mean give me a break, it’s been a rough week and I’m new to this genuinely trying to look on the bright side thing. So here they are:
1)   Finding the perfect glass jar with a snap lid for my granola for only $2 at the thrift store

2)   Seeing the sun yesterday and today, finally!   Yes, I was totally freezing my ass off, but sun is sun.
3)   Starting this blog : )

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Getting back to the grind

I’m a creature of habit.  I always eat my fruit snacks in a specific color order.   I like to sit in the same seat even when seats aren’t assigned and once I have a favorite dish at a restaurant I will never cheat on it (ok, maybe a little side action, but I’d never not order it).

I assume I do these things because they bring me a sense of comfort and predictability.  So doesn’t it seem ironic that right after a breakup, when comfort is what I need the most, all my routines go out the window? 

I’ve been thinking about this for a while and it seems the root cause is after a breakup, when my heart is broken (or maybe just very badly scraped and bruised, it’s tough to tell the extent of the damage before the initial swelling comes down) everything seems completely different.  Consequently going through my normal routine of a healthy breakfast every morning, going to the gym daily and sitting down to check out recipes on my favorite blogs feels like a total sham. 

In the past I’ve dealt with this feeling by just powering through.  I told myself that if I could act like everything was normal and like nothing had changed I would wake up one day and actually feel that way.  But has this ever really been true?  And what exactly is the point of doing all these comforting routines if I feel like I’m giving myself a do-it-yourself root canal while struggling through them?

Plus there is one huge central weakness to the “my life is normal, you can be normal too” master plan this time around.  Samuel Whiskers lives and works here and is in my face all the time. 

Easy is never the right word to use when it comes to relationships or the ending of one, but I’m starting to think that I never had a full appreciation for what absence can do for the heart, and I don’t mean in the growing fonder sort of way.  Maybe it really was possible to go back to my routine and feel better the other times because not having to see the guy made it that much simpler to pretend he never existed.  It was like I just continued on the same path I was on, cut out that miserable, necrotic segment know as boy’s existence and then spliced the clean ends of my life back together like that blip in the radar never occurred. 

But how can I possibly do this when there is living proof that it did happen crossing my path, like an oversized, totally not cute, black cat almost everyday?

I guess the short answer is I can’t. 

So here’s the deal.  I do need to function.  I’m running out of clif bars to eat instead of real food and rewearing socks a third time is just disgusting. But maybe this time when I go back to my routine I can focus on rediscovering what I really loved about it in the first place.  Instead of just going through the motions I need to start putting them into action.  For instance maybe I shouldn’t just read new recipes I want to try, maybe I should actually make them and have friends over to help me enjoy the results.

I’m still struggling on how I’m going to rekindle my romance with laundry, but you get the idea.  It seems like a step in the right direction, even if it’s a modest one.