Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Snow Day!

As much as I would like you all to believe, and therefore have sympathy for me, it does not snow here in the tundra every day. Yes, there is snow on the ground for many months in a row, but it does not in fact snow on a daily basis.

Actually, this winter has been very light on snow. Last year was utter chaos that produced record breaking amounts of the white fluff. This year, not so much. At least by local standards.

Unbelievably we have only had two snow days this year, as in school was cancelled. The first was at the beginning of February. The second was today. 

This past weekend we were supposed to get a storm with an estimated two feet of snow. On Saturday morning The Canadian climbed out of bed, knowing he would have to snow blow the driveway, and went straight to the window to assess the damage. Seeing no new snow on the ground he rubbed his eyes and headed to a different window to double check. Sure enough, the storm missed us. Thank goodness, because major snow on the weekend is a waste. What's the point of a snow storm if you don't get a day off work? Honestly.

Anyway, rumors started to swirl around town yesterday about the possibility of a perfectly timed storm that was supposedly arriving. See, the key to getting the day off of work isn't necessarily the amount of snow. Don't get me wrong, a lot of snow helps, but it's the timing that really makes the difference.

For example, if it starts dumping in the middle of the afternoon and continues into early night then the army of plows will have time to clear the roads by the next morning. Bummer for all of us school district employees. However, if the snow is a little more than minor and starts in the early morning, say 4am, then the plows won't be able to get the roads cleared in time for school. That is what was supposed to happen last night.

I was torn yesterday afternoon. Do I hope for snow because I could really use a day off work to get caught up on my life? Or do I hope for clear skies because I really hate hate hate shoveling, clearing off my car and wading through even more white stuff? It's pretty when it is freshly fallen but the clean up and the melting is not nearly as gorgeous or entertaining.

Like I said, I was torn. Snow or no snow? I fell asleep ready to go to work in the morning but satisfied that I would survive even if it did snow again. Just as long as this is the last time for the year. I need some grass in my life. No, not the illegal kind. The legally responsible kind, you know the kind that grows in the yard.

Well, it snowed. Not a massive amount. But just enough, at the right time, that school was cancelled. I woke up to find Maple sound asleep in her bed, Hobie standing outside in the snow and The Canadian busy snow blowing the driveway. 

I find it quite appropriate that my Southern dog laid in bed all morning while her Canadian sister stood outside in the cold with her master. And people say Maple isn't smart! Hmph.

I briefly considered helping with the shoveling but decided I was much better off putting on my robe instead of my snow pants, making coffee and venturing outside to take some photos. 

He did briefly consider throwing me and my robe in the snow, but then thought better of it. 

And he did the shoveling too. Man, I love that husband of mine. He really knows how to win a girl over.

If you're quiet on a snowy morning you can hear the hum of snow blowers all across the neighborhood. Look up and down the street and you'll see all the men outside manning their snow blowers. Occasionally you'll see a woman with a shovel clearing the stairs, but not often. Nope, it's a man thing. And I am totally okay with that.

Anyway, after working hard to clear the driveway and uncover the cars The Canadian and I went out for breakfast at our favorite diner. He then took off to the mountain for a day of skiing in order to take full advantage of the snow day. Meanwhile, I toiled away at my never-ending pile of homework and devoured coffee like it was my job. 

Then he came home to an overly jittery wife and promptly threatened to throw me in the snow again. See? Just another reason that snow is the devil. He would never threaten to throw me in the grass.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Boycott the Box Mix: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

First and foremost, this is not just about muffins. Well, it kind of is. But there are other things that are more important.

Like how ridiculous a black dog looks when she gets in the way of measuring flour.

What? I can't help it. Mess is my middle name.

Have you ever made muffins from scratch? I don't know why you would when the box mix makes them so darn easy.

I'm working in a high school class right now that is very similar to Home Ec. but minus the whole sewing and cleaning thing. It's called Culinary Tech and the idea is to teach the skills needed to work in a restaurant. Apparently no one needs to know how to sew on a button any more.

Last week we made a recipe for Pineapple Carrot Muffins - quite possibly the most disgusting and bland food I have ever put in my mouth. To try and get back in the kid's good graces the teacher came back a few days later with a recipe for Banana Chocolate Chip muffins. Score.

What a way to introduce the world of homemade muffins. I'm never going back. Doesn't matter if I wanted to, TC won't allow it now. 

Here's my point: Boycott the mix. Embrace the fruit. Make muffins from scratch.

Yes, your kitchen may turn into a disaster zone.

But with any luck you've got someone desperate enough to help you clean up in exchange for a muffin or three.

And for goodness sake, don't let the dog lick the counter. Gross.

Banana Chocolate Chip Muffins

1 3/4 cup Flour
3/4 cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Baking Powder
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/2 cup Plain Yogurt
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1/2 cup Vegetable Oil
2-2 1/2 Bananas, ripe
1 cup Chocolate Chips

Preheat over to 350F. In a medium bowl mix flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl mix together oil, vanilla, egg and yogurt. Mix until moistened. Fold in mashed bananas (I used a potato masher). Fold in chocolate chips. Scoop into lined or greased muffin tin. Bake for 22-25 minutes until golden. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

What I Need.

While the rest of North America is apparently experiencing a heat wave today, it is snowing here. Well, it might be rain. No. I just peeked out the window and looked under the street light. Definitely snow.


Here's what I need:

Sand. Preferably between my toes. Not beach sand. The kind of sand that makes up Florida streets, that Florida grass grows in. The kind of sand that you have to sweep up every day because you track it inside on your sandals. Sandals? What are those? I don't even know anymore.

Short sleeves. Really, I think my arms are suffering from Vitamin D deficiency. It's a legitimate medical condition caused by sweaters and parkas. I'm just looking for a little breeze on the ole elbows...nothing major.

Wavy hair. Nothing a little warm weather and humidity can't fix. It's been months that I've been religiously drying and straightening my hair daily. I'm over it. My arm hurts. I've burned through two hair dryers. But I can't stop until it warms up another million degrees. Negative temperatures and wet hair  are only a good combination if you want your hair to freeze and snap right off your head. Now that would totally be a good look.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Chocolate Butterscotch Boston Cream Cake.

Yesterday was our friend Serge's birthday. When I asked him what kind of birthday cake he wanted I expected a normal answer, like chocolate or yellow. Instead, he told me that we would figure it out when he came over to help me make it. Ooookay. I love it! Come on over, dude.

I pressed him to come up with flavors so I could be sure to have the correct ingredients on hand. He seemed to like my suggestion of Boston Cream but thought maybe it would be better with butterscotch pudding and chocolate cake instead of vanilla. Oookay, butterscotch chocolate cake it is.

I decided to forgo my usual Duncan Hines Devil's Food because it's been royally pissing me off lately. But hey, if that's my biggest worry in life I figure I'm doing well. 

Anyway, I stole a chocolate cake recipe online from some famous cook and decided to make three layers instead of two. 

That way you get more pudding, which makes everything better.

As promised, Serge was super helpful and did an excellent job of making the pudding and creating the layers.

Then we whipped up ganache after I convinced him that it was a better choice than regular old frosting. I just don't think buttercream and pudding are meant to coexist.

Somehow, somewhere along the line something went terribly wrong and the cake became the Leaning Tower of Pisa. I'd like to blame it on my assistant but I'm pretty sure the blame is mine.

Serge was thoroughly enjoying painting on the ganache but it was making quite the mess. Being the artist that he is, The Canadian stepped in and proceeded to paint the entire plate with chocolate. Don't be surprised if the Louve calls to put this masterpiece on display.

Seriously, it's a wonder people don't pay me to professionally make cakes.

Really, it's impressively ugly and lopsided...but let me just tell you this - it's damn delicious.

I'm sure when you make it there will be less pressure (ie two men staring you down, pressuring you to make a cake RIGHT NOW!) and it will turn out beautifully. Don't knock it til ya try it.

Copy and Pasteable:

8 oz Semi Sweet chocolate
1 cup Heavy Whipping Cream

Coarsely chop chocolate and place in bowl. Bring the cream to a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate. Stir to mix. Let stand and cool for 5 minutes before using.

Devil's Food Chocolate Cake from David Lebovitz
9 tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 cups Cake Flour
1/2 teaspoons Salt
1 teaspoon Baking Soda
1/4 Teaspoon Baking Powder
1 stick Unsalted Butter, softened
1 1/2 cups Sugar, granulated
2 Eggs, large, at room temperature
1/2 cup Coffee, or water
1/2 cup Milk

1. Preheat over to 350
2. Butter 2 9in pans and line with parchment paper
3. Sift together cake flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cocoa
4. With mixer, beat sugar and butter until creamy
5. Add eggs to butter, one at a time
6. Add in half of the dry ingredients to the butter
7. Add in the milk and coffee
8. Add in remaining half of dry ingredients
9. Divide batter in both pans (three pans if you're cool like me)
10. Bake for 25 minutes (for 2 pans) or 17 minutes (for 3 pans)

Directions for constructing our concoction:

Make Devil's Food cake in 3 9 inch pans. Allow cakes to cool completely. Before stacking, place bottom cake on a cake circle or something similar, the ganache will be messy. On top of the first layer add a half inch layer of butterscotch pudding. Place second cake on top. Add second layer of pudding. Place third layer on top. Make ganache. When cool, use a pastry brush to paint on a thin layer. Chill in the refrigerator for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ganache evenly across the top and sides. Allow to set for 30 minutes before serving. Enjoy!


Canadians are hardcore. Especially Canadian boys. I actually think I heard the words "You can tell we all grew up in Canada because we know how to build a snow wall," come out of someone's mouth this weekend.

It started off innocently enough at our friend Serge's house on Friday night. It's his birthday weekend and he'd recently built a fire pit (because that's the normal thing to do in the dead of winter) in his back yard. He wanted to try it out since the wind was calm and it was fairly mild outside. Seemed like the perfect way to spend an evening and unwind.

So a few of us gathered around the fire while Serge sat presiding over his court. We dragged out deck chairs and titled them next to the fire, close enough to dry the snow but not too close to melt the chairs. We poured drinks and pulled out blankets to keep our legs warm. Conversation was flowing and all was right in the world.

Then someone went to get more firewood. They brought it out in a big plastic tub. You know the kind you would use to chill beer and bottled water at a party? Within minutes the tub was emptied of firewood, refilled with snow and turned upside down.

Then it was refilled and dumped again, sand castle style.

Then I asked if they would mind making me a table for my drink while they were at it. Sure, they said.

As soon as we all had end tables the building recommenced. Nothing better than a table that holds your drink and chills it all at the same time.

The pile got higher and higher.

They didn't appear to have an exact plan, but they seemed to have vision. Build as high as they could. The snow would become whatever structure it was meant to be.

They were so serious at one point someone (I can't be sure who because they were hidden behind the wall) yelled, "Hey, shovel hog!" I tell ya, you will never hear me utter those words. Never.

Meanwhile the rest of us without shovels remained in our patio chairs enjoying the fire.

Occasionally one of the builders would even come out and join us. I mean, this work had been going on for hours and they needed a break.

Finally, after hours of hard manual labor that caused The Canadian to strip down to just his t-shirt, the vision was complete. Is it a wall? Is it a couch? No! It's a giant SNOW THRONE!

It even moonlights as a refrigerator. Man, is snow ever versatile.

And if one throne/wall wasn't enough they started in on a second wall. I think they were going for a complete dome. 

The second side never amounted to much more than a wind barrier, but it was a damn impressive wind barrier and definitely helped keep me warm and the bonfire smoke from blowing in my face.

The final product. Complete with a tiki torch enterance. Welcome to Snow Festival 2012!

Friday, February 17, 2012

6 Miles is 6 Miles.

In high school I was a solid B/C student. Except for Chorus, I got A's in there. It wasn't that I didn't possess the potential to earn A's, I just didn't care. I was happy with a B on my report card. On report card night I would come bouncing home and flaunt my B's to my parents, hoping they would ignore the C in Latin. No such luck. Ever. Instead, I was greeted with a "Why aren't these A's?" Even the occasional A went overlooked, shadowed by the gruesome B or C.

It's not that my parents weren't proud of the A. They just wanted to challenge me, to make me work a bit harder and push myself to my potential. Unfortunately for them, I didn't have the same sentiments.

The past couple of weeks I've been running four nights a week. I'm toying with the idea of training for a half marathon in May, but at the very least I plan on training for the 10k. Seeing as I ran 6 miles last week that shouldn't be too hard. All I need to do is keep up with my new found hobby.

The first time I ran 6 miles I texted my marathon-running dad a photo of the treadmill screen. "Good work!" he said. The second time I did it he responded with a "Very nice. That's great. Keep it up."

The third time I managed 6 miles was last night. I was a sweaty mess with sore feet. Turns out when your shoes are bald as a baby's bum it is time for new running shoes. Also, my sports bras are from high school and I wear Hanes tank tops from WalMart that chafe my arms. It might be time to up the ante and go wild by investing in some Old Navy tops and some sports bras that actually have elasticity.

Where was I? Oh yes, "Dad!" I texted, "I did it again!" I sent along another photo of the treadmill screen broadcasting 6.0 miles and a time of 70 minutes. Fully expecting something along the lines of "Good job, honey. You're a badass." I was shocked when he responded with, "You can do that in under 60 minutes. Push it a bit." Hello, high school? Is it report card day again?

He's not being mean, mind you. Of course he's proud of my running. He just likes to challenge me. He knows that I can't back down from a good challenge. And he knows that I can do it.

You know what? He's right. I can push myself a bit more. I almost died, but I did it. I squeaked out 3 miles tonight at a 10 minute/mile pace (ignore the extra 3 minutes, it was a warm-up). I don't know why the hell I'm concerned about speed when I should just be concentrating on not keeling over dead in the middle of the gym,  but whatever. I did it. Mission accomplished, Dad. Can I go back to my nice 11 minute/mile now? Okay, great. Thanks.

But seriously, thanks for pushing me and always giving me a good challenge to work toward.

Oh, and I'll be buying new running shoes this weekend. Wanna lend me a couple bucks?

Kidding! I'm kidding. I can buy my own running shoes. Old habits die hard.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

In The Woods.

Maple is sick. I'm sure you can tell by how pathetic and lethargic she seems. Clearly, the bag of trash she enjoyed the other day did not sit well in her belly. Thanks to our lovely neighbors she left me several lovely presents on the floor yesterday. Remind me to send them a card. 

Yesterday, The Canadian and I decided to forgo the usual Valentine's Day hoopla and take the dogs for a nice walk in the woods. We probably should have busted out the snowshoes but we decided to be tough and just wear boots. 

Maple had a wonderful time destroying as many sticks as possible. She sprinted back and forth, all across the trails searching for the perfect stick. Once she would find it, she would lay down in the snow and do her best to create wood chips in a matter of seconds.

Obviously another critter has been enjoying the trees as well. Not to worry, we didn't see the little guy. I'm sure Maple and her scary ways kept him at bay. She's fierce like that.

The trail we were attempting to follow happens to be one of TC's favorite biking trails. Unfortunately most of it is being cleared for new houses, as evidenced by the bull dozers we could hear in the distance. I read in the paper that our town has grown by 26% in the last three years so I guess they're going to have to make room for all these new folks at the expense of our biking and walking trails.

Lucky for TC several of the biking obstacles (what do you call those things?) were still intact.

He went back and forth, back and forth, trying to coax the dogs to climb on. No such luck. They ain't as stupid as they look.

It was nice to take a random afternoon walk though the woods with my favorite guy and the two monsters. It helps to ease the pain of a long winter.

The Bailey's in my coffee helped too. It makes me feel like I just may survive until Spring after all. 

If these "warm" temperatures keep up we might just have to trade in our parkas and coffee for bathing suits and margaritas. Fingers crossed.