Tuesday, November 30, 2010

“A compliment is verbal sunshine”

Everyone enjoys being complimented.  It something that brightens your day, especially when you receive one when you least expect it.  I don't remember the last time I was overwhelmed with compliments.  It seems that we, as people interacting with other people every day, don't hand out compliments enough.

Today was an awesome day at work.   There were so many happy customers, I almost didn't know what to do.  It's the holiday season and something about the holidays makes people grouchy.  They come in, they grab what they want and then they stomp over to the register, fuss about return policies, and interrogate about gift receipts. I think that's mostly why I dread going to work during the holiday season.  So today was a little bit of a surprise. People were so nice to me!  I was complimented on my smile, my knowledge of the products, my skill with the helicopters, and my overall attitude towards work and customers.  Each compliment came from a different customer.  People addressed me by name and one man even asked to speak to my manager so he could tell him to give me a raise.  It was awesome.

Compliments are the start of a domino effect.  Someone pays you a compliment, your day brightens, you feel better about things so you smile more and are more polite and may end up complimenting someone else.  And then it continues on to make someone else's day that much better.

I issue this challenge: Compliment someone tomorrow.  Compliment three people tomorrow.  Compliment the checker at the grocery store or the man who holds the elevator for you.  Compliment your coworkers and your family.  Compliment everyone you come in contact with!

I promise you that if you make the effort to make as many compliments as you can, your day will be brighter and you will be happier.

Spread the sunshine.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

“A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone's feelings unintentionally"

I believe that every relationship we may encounter in life is something we can learn from.  We can learn to be better friends, more compassionate, less judgmental, more humble, more kind.  Some people are shining examples of what not to be, others are reminders that there are still wholly good people in the world.

Quentin is proof that there are still spiritual, smart, gentlemen around.  He's the kind of guy who holds the door open and wraps his coat around you when you're cold.  He's gentle, but manly.  Spiritual, but light hearted and fun.  He's a great reminder to me that good guys do exist, they're just few and far between.

I'm refreshed and relieved.  The world needs more guys like Quentin in it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Men may come and men may go.....but Pie goes on for ever."

The pie wars have started.  And ended.

Last night I prepared three different pie crust recipes in order to try them side by side and judge which was best.

First was the original crust recipe that my mother has been using for ages.  It's simple and easy, just flour, salt, water, and shortening.  Only problem is sometimes it's almost too dry, resulting in dough crumbling everywhere while you're trying to roll it out and press it into the pie pan.  This one I baked into a cherry pie.  My mom and I used this neat little cookie cutter things to create a bunch of leaves to cover the top instead of the traditional cover over it.  The filling didn't quite fill it as much as I anticipated, so it looked a little funny, but the leaf top turned out great.

Second was one recipe dubbed as foolproof by Cooks Illustrated.  This one has flour, sugar, salt, butter and shortening, water, and vodka.  The vodka is the secret ingredient that enables the dough to be pliable enough to be easy to roll out and prepare, but then bakes off and leaves a dry, flaky crust.  This one I baked into two pumpkin pies.  Now, this dough is really wet.  Almost too wet.  I had a lot of trouble rolling it out and putting it in the pans.  It might have made a difference if I had chosen to roll out the dough the way most people do, but I follow my mother's method.  I put the dough in a 2.5 gallon ziplock and roll it out in the bag.  With a dough that's less sticky, the bag is easy to cut off it.  This one just stuck to the bag and came all apart in a big doughy mess.  One pie I ended up pressing the dough into the pan, the other I practically froze solid.  Before putting the warm filling in them, I put the crusts in the oven for a blind bake.  When I took them out of the oven and removed the pie weights, I saw that the dough had slid down the sides of the pan and was sticking to the base of my pie.  There was no winning with this dough, so I did my best to press it back up the sides and get it in the oven.  Only one pie turned out pretty looking.


Third is the supposedly Perfect Pie Crust recipe that The Pioneer Woman raved about. This one is comprised of flour, salt, water, vinegar, and an egg.  It took a little more time than the other two and it smelled a little funny because of the vinegar, but it's apparently awesome.  I let this dough chill in the fridge over night and it's a good thing because even after about 3 hours of chilling, it was still soft.  This one ended up sticking to the ziplock bag, but not as much as the previous (this time I floured the bags lightly, so that might have been the reason.  I baked it up into a gorgeous apple pie.  On top of the crust I gave it a nice light egg wash (using the whole egg, beaten with a little water) then topped it with turbinado sugar.  This pie is a contender for the prettiest pie I've ever baked award.  The only picture I got, however, has poor lighting and has the pumpkin pie in the background.

So which pie crust was the best?  Simple, foolproof, or perfect?  The first was the best tasting with the right amount of flake.  This goes to show that if it ain't broke, don't fix it.  Mom's recipe is the best recipe.

And, as a special sign off, here's the lemon tart I made in addition to the pies.  This is a fabulous recipe.  I love tarts.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Things will get better if you just hold my hand"

First of all, if you haven't heard this Akon and MJ song, you should.  I'm a fan.

Second, you should go camping on the beach.  Not only is being that close to the water all night awesome (though windy), the stars are incredible.  You can find brilliant stars elsewhere, but for some reason I really enjoy being able to lay in the tent looking up at the sky (no rain fly; too windy) while listening to the waves.  It's so peaceful.  A beautiful escape from the hustle and bustle of every day life.

Some friends and I decided to go for an overnight campout at Point Mugu last weekend.  We packed everything up and met out there just in time to witness the most gorgeous sunset while we set up the tents.  It was like any typical campout, littered with roasted hot dogs, smores, and telling stories around the fire.  We played games all night in the tent and couldn't sleep in because of the sunshine.  It was glorious.

I like being able to decide I want to get away for a day or a night or an afternoon.  I like being old enough to rent out a campsite and organize everything for myself.  I like being in nature and remembering just how small I am in this vast world.  I like holding hands, and I like the card game Scum.

I like life.


"Though pleas'd to see the dolphins play, I mind my compass and my way."

I baked a cake for my friend Brock's birthday.  He turned 26 and requested a nautical themed cake.  Somehow this is what he ended up with...

Chocolate butter cake with vanilla buttercream frosting.  

Designed by me, decorated by me.  I was pretty pleased.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

"I would rather sit on a pumpkin and have it all to myself than be crowded on a velvet cushion"

It's no secret that I love Halloween.  I've got a closet full of costumes to prove it.  This year I went all out.  Four costumes.

First I wore my new Princess Lolly (candyland character) costume to the institute halloween party.  I made it in about three days and it turned out alright.  It wasn't what I envisioned, but it was pretty darn cute.  Except when the lollipops on the dress stabbed me in the leg whenever I sat down.  Still, it was legit.

Second was the regional Halloween party.  I went as some form of jester, I don't really know.  It's a recycled costume.  At one point it was my sisters when she was of trick-or-treating age and then I snagged it to use for whatever shindigs I could.  Really, I just like the idea of getting dressed up and then going to be with people.  I think halloween gives me an opportunity to carry my childhood dress up games into my adult life without feeling too foolish.  Which is why I wanted to wear a different costume to every event.

Two nights before halloween I went to a church dance in Santa Monica.  Now, I've been to some pretty large dances, but this one put them all to shame.  Over 2000 people showed up.  The gym where the dance was was packed from wall too wall.  I had trouble moving around in there because I was dressed as a zombie grandma and my walker wouldn't fit through the crowd easily.  Plus the blood on my costume was pretty sticky and I didn't want to get it all over people.  Even though I spent the majority of the time out in the courtyard chasing Rick around trying to take a bite out of his arm, I learned that walkers make excellent dance props.  Tons of fun.

Fourth costume was footie pajamas and a blanket.  I wore this out to take my niece and nephew trick-or-treating.  Ava asked me what I was going to wear that night, so I felt obligated to bust out another costume.

I love halloween.   I love dressing up.  I love seeing little kids being excited to dress up.  I made my brother James an Aladdin costume and he loved it.  It's a silly holiday, but it's so much fun.

Jonny and myself as zombie grandparents