Monday, August 21, 2017

Do you give a fuck about the eclipse?

The physical eclipse doesn’t really excite me much, but then again I am in Ohio.  We are expecting something like 70% totality which is of course not totality.  But it’s okay, I’m glad for a good word like totality to have a boost in the vernacular.  God knows I deal in totality.  Or at least I usually do.  I'm having some bouts of indecision whiplash which is most unlike me.  Of course, the last thing we really need more of right now is totality, but that’s a fight waiting to happen I guess. 
What does intrigue me incredibly is the astrological nature of this eclipse.  But I am in a huge rush and need to just get this cookie recipe posted and hopefully talk about all this later.  I’m very sorry that this is a repost of an old recipe.  I am going to refer to it on Instagram today and wanted it in a convenient spot. 

After a long and busy summer, my boat totes were looking like shit.  So Friday was their laundry day.  Barbie
enjoyed supervising their drying and refused to move. So now they're freshly laundered with some freshly washed dog hair attached.  

To make a long thought short, I’d love a discussion on all of this.  Whether you give a damn about astrology or not, we can all enjoy an excuse for changes we’d like to make—big, small, or gigantic.  I should know better but—you know President Donald Trump’s rising sign is Leo and this is a double Leo eclipse.  So it’s actually an opportunity for him to change his relationship with the world and how the world perceives him.  Which is interesting given that, in my opinion, one of his most sinister and unwise cohorts is recently out.  Perhaps I am woefully optimistic, but I wonder if he could seize the chance and make a U-turn.  What do you think?  Remember, I accept moderated anonymous comments.  So anything goes…just as long as it’s not vicious. 
A prime example of my eclipse-related indecision vertigo: I made these with one very strong intention, shipped them, then had made a 180 emotional reversal of course by the time they arrived 30 hours later.

Dark and White Chocolate Chunk Cookies

2 1/2 cups AP flour
1 1/4cups (2.5 sticks) butter, melted
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons diastatic malt powder
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon bourbon whiskey
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoon salt-plus another tablespoon or so for topping
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
2 large eggs
8 oz dark chocolate
4 oz white chocolate

1. Add flour, vegetable oil, and diastatic malt powder to melted butter.  Lightly mix until combined, being mindful to keep mixing to a minimum.  Let sit about 20 minutes. 

2. Chop chocolates into large chunks.  Put chopped chocolate into freezer.

3.  Mix sugars, eggs, whiskey, salt, and vanilla into the flour and butter mixture.  Once just combined, add chocolate and delicately mix in.  Some of the chunks will break, but keep mixing to a minimum both to minimize chocolate breakage and to maintain the soft texture of the cookies. 

4. Line sheet tray with parchment.  Using a 2" ice cream scoop, scoop cookie dough onto sheet trays.  Because they will freeze on this sheet, the dough balls can be crowded on.  Avoid temptation to pat or handle dough balls in any way, unless uneven shards break out of the circular perimeter, those may be patted back in to maintain the shape. 

5. Sprinkle each dough ball with about 3/4 pinch kosher salt. 

6. Freeze uncovered 4-12 hours. 

7. Preheat oven to 400F. 

8. Quickly place dough balls onto ungreased nonstick sheet tray.  The cookies will be about 2x the size of the dough so allow for expansion.  I only bake one sheet at a time as to keep oven humidity down. Quickly get cookies into oven and bake 9 minutes.  Put remaining dough back into freezer.  Start watching closely through closed oven door at about 7 minutes.  You will see the bottom and perimeter browning but middle should still look uncooked (though the middle will temp about 160).  In my oven, they are perfect after nine minutes exactly. 

9.  Remove and repeat.  Allow to cool on baking sheet.  If you try to remove them from baking sheet while still hot, they will likely break.  Interestingly, they taste very best about 24 hours after baking.  Though they are very good an hour or two after bake. 

The Christmas adaptation is here 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

A Perfect Day?

Should you ever ask my mother, the problem-solving and solution-obsessed Aries (Aries rules the head, therefore dilemmas swirl like hurricanes in their heads until they are conquered), for guidance with a problem, she would eventually challenge you to one of her favorite exercises.  To describe—in vivid and obscene detail—your perfect day.  My mother is painfully and excruciatingly detailed.  That energetic gold-green punctuated by chalky white speckling Granny Smith (named for Maria Ann Smith, hybridized in Australia in 1868) didn’t fall far from the tree with me.  So perhaps that is why it’s so effective.  But basically, you map out a day—when you’ll wake up, how long you’ll stay in bed before rising, etc—no detail is too small. 

Do you suppose this buck knows his crown puts him at risk? Uneasy lies the head...
What this never fails to do is remind you that there is no greater luxury than time.  As you go through your dream day, you don’t say I wake up and check my Rolex for the time and hop into my Range Rover for some bourgeois coffee.  It’s all about time.  And as you say things about what you might do in this dreamy, perfect day, you more or less realize they’re easy things.  Universal things.  Some of us love to spend time in the garden first thing in the morning, or commune a bit with nature and our dog.  These things are about having and making time more than they are about anything else.  My perfect day often includes an early rise, my normal coffee and f-e-t-c-h routine with Barbie, and then shopping for ingredients.  A day that is free needs structure for me.  Cooking is obviously how I prefer to create this. 
At this magical time of year, when everything is so abundant and fresh and you can taste summer in thousands of ways, nothing is more inspiring than the farmers market.  What could be the repulsive piecemeal perfume of sticky peaches--and torn corn silk--and pungent onions too fragile to have the dirt brushed off them--all somehow blends beautifully with the overnotes of fresh tomato.  On my dream days, it’s this time of year. 
Much to my delight, my friend Elizabeth of Frontier Farm needed some help at last week's farmers market. I helped her in
the first busy hour of the market.  I think working an hour at a farmers market now qualifies me as a gentleman farmer, right?

It’s been a very busy, wonderful summer.  I just haven’t had the time for a Saturday like this yet.  So with last Saturday completely untouched, I decided to officially close my schedule for the day and take it off.  This is hard to do when self-employed, but important from time to time.  It was kind of the light at the end of the tunnel for what I expected to be a rough week as my little relationship burned out. And it kind of was.  Not bad, but you know there’s always lots of feelings to sort through.  Especially for me because I am so fucking sensitive.  So as I spent the week luxuriating in the melodramatic decadence of heartache, I delighted in thinking of Saturday. I am full-bore on my real estate classes and almost finished here in Ohio.  I have a very promising prospect in Hilton Head that would involve three properties for one family.  So I’ll be deep in classes and testing over the next two or three months and am very excited.  Well by Friday, I was seeing my own absurdity.  That’s always a good mile marker to reach, in my opinion.  When you can look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re full of shit.  Things are more or less back to normal. 

Then I went out to get the mail.  I was expecting one package but there were two.  Shiiiiiit.  This usually means two nights ago I was typing in my Amazon password with one eye closed and wine mouth.  What could it be?! Except I knew that wasn’t it cause I didn’t have time to drink the week before (I know, tragedy).  It is rare to get a truly unexpected present.  About this time last year, I ordered a gravy boat on eBay.  The next day the seller sent me a refund and said actually it had chipped so she didn’t want to send it.  She relisted it discounted, but I just moved on in my search.  So I come in and kind of nervously open the box to find that gravy boat and a note.  What a pleasant surprise.  This set the tone for the rest of my weekend.  I had a fabulous time.  

So, tell me, what's your perfect day? 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Pyrite and Pie

Oh my god, finally something normal! And time to do it.  This is a lot of new for an old Taurus like me.  How are things?  Things are pretty good.  If one can’t have both, I’m glad things are good professionally. I officially ended my long-held dating embargo. Well god only knows what light was shining on me in June because the floodgays opened and I met not one or two, but several great guys where I saw quite a bit of potential.  But there was really one who stood out when I met him.  This guy was the personification of The List, you know like in Practical Magic.  I thought it’d be so easy, I thought he was so much like me, I was into it.  I’ve been told this is a problem but I really am done dating my opposite.  I’ve done it too many times and am too good at being rigid to be challenged on every fucking thing.  You wanna change soap?! Okay, let’s get a divorce.  You want to go to your mom’s house on Thanksgiving? I’m going to fake my own death.   You put fork tines down in the dishwasher instead of up?  I told you, this is my kitchen you are not even allowed in here.  Is it too much to ask that I find someone who just does everything I say and never disagrees with me?! Wellll, the more I got to know him the more I realized, he was in fact not exactly like me.  We agreed on the big things and nothing else.  But I still really liked him.  Okay, maybe I’ll budge on this and that, I can tweak A and B, etc. 

And I have to say, I was feeling pretty happy to accommodate.  I suppose this speaks to the chemical nature of love.  But then something in the energy changed.  I have been asked quite a lot What changed? And the answer is I don’t really know.  I have a few ideas, but chasing leads like that can get messy quickly.  But something did.  Well a week of that was too much for me.  I asked, got a vague answer, asked again, got a different vague answer.  As we all know, once a seed of doubt has been sown, it grows quickly and chokes out things that belong in its place.  So I sweetly but directly ended it.  Ten years ago, I would have thrived on the intrigue of finding out all the sordid details but the SAJ of today does not care for those.  My mantra let go or be dragged was once again of importance.  I asked myself all the times I was glad to have listened to my intuition and all the times I wish I hadn’t.  One list was much, much longer than the other.  Just as well, this is not the time for distractions for either of us anyway. 
The big news is that I don’t regret it.  I mean, I kiiinda regret it, but not immensely.  It was kind of a revelation that I could meet someone, like him, and see a path for the whole thing.  I’d say three steps forward, one step back.  I still feel I came out ahead from where I was, which considering the pace of 2017 for other people, is pretty damn good. 
If only I could learn to write about the thing I set out to write about.  Clearly this was all headed to a discussion on key lime pie.  As we know thanks to FF, we are most definitely in the season of Leo.  This also means the season of key lime pie.  My lifelong best friend is also a Leonine attorney like FF and throughout the years I have made her key lime pies on her birthday more years than not. 
Key lime pie is special to me because it is the first thing I ever mastered from scratch.  For a fat ten year old with a lot of feelings, this was quite the boon.  Looking back, I am less impressed because it’s really fucking easy.  Oh well.  Easy is good, especially for summer desserts.  Issue #1, do I use key limes? Fuuuuuck no.  By the time they make it to Ohio—if they ever make it to Ohio--they are petrified ghosts of fruit and completely useless.  Some people like to be annoying and scoff that it’s not key lime pie if it’s made with regular lime juice.  Okay, then don’t fucking eat it.  I really want it for breakfast tomorrow anyway, asshole.  Issue #2, yes I just use canned condensed milk.  Now I’ve moved away from evaporated milk in my pumpkin pies, so I’m tempted to try alternatives in key lime.  But it’s so easy and so beloved just like this, I think this is one time where my Taurian love for nostalgia and tradition must trump my Taurian pursuit for the absolute best ingredients.  Mix it in, get the embarrassing cans out of the kitchen and into the recycling and think about something else. 

Swamp Rose Mallow, an astonishingly beautiful wildflower in the Hibiscus family

Do those serving pieces in the raspberries look familiar?! They are from Ellie's shop! But I didn't buy them!
Dani did! I jokingly told her she stole them from me because I had planned to buy them.
A little while later she incredibly kindly said she was tidying up her drawers and looked at them and wanted me to have them. I tried to persuade her to keep them but she was resolute! I love them sooo much! Thanks again, Dani! 

Key Lime Pie
Adapted from an ancient Emeril Lagasse recipe that aired on Emeril Live!

Preheat oven to 350F, convection if you have it
3 sleeves (1 whole box) honey graham crackers, ground
2 sticks butter, melted
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon whiskey optional
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine and press into greased pie plate. This crust does not bake at all before filled. Make a nice thick crust, we don’t skimp here.  You might have a little left over that you just can’t fit in—about 1/3 cup.  Much more than that is incorrect and you need to have a drink and let your hair down and try again. 

2 cans sweetened condensed milk
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
2 large eggs

Mix and pour into pie crust. Bake about 15-20 minutes at 350, convection if you have the option. You want a slight wiggle but for the top to remain smooth. Let cool to room temperature and then refrigerate at least four hours, I prefer overnight. 

I go back and forth on if I like any topping with it.  Some days we are in the mood to gild lilies and some days we are not.  When I do, I like a lime whipped cream.  It’s more lime-y than sweet. 

2 cups heavy cream
½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
3 Tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest
Dash salt

Whip cream and sugar together in chilled mixing bowl until almost set.  Then add lime juice, zest, and salt and finish whipping.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Red Sky in Morning

Generally, I try to make a point of not starting posts with lengthy explanations about just where the fuck I’ve been.  I suppose this time is a little different because it’s relevant beyond just curiosity.  As I mentioned in one of my very long posts, there is no part of me that runs towards change.  I don’t necessarily run from change either.  I tend to just dig my heels in, fight it, and shelter in place.  Much like the idiot who refuses to sell to the city in cases of eminent domain.  Sure, you might win your case but you live in a highway median now.  Grit serves us well, belligerence shoots us in the foot. 
One of my favorite Barbie photos ever. 
Remember how I was giving up carbs...
The sunrise on the vernal equinox was absolutely unreal.  It had been weeks since we'd had anything other than grey skies and it broke for about 15 minutes to reveal this otherworldly show.
So you can imagine my shock when I started feeling the urge of change before it started calling me.  While I started my business amid personal chaos, personal chaos does get sorted out with a steady hand and a corkscrew.  Things that used to make your blood boil now barely merit an eye roll and there is comfort in the minutiae.  Though it can be murky realizing that not feeling plagued doesn’t exactly mean you’re thriving. Recovery of any kind--addiction, heartache, financial exhaustion, grief—must be taken one day at a time to reach success.  But how long?  The only people with a RECOVERED stamp to press to paper are the IRS.  There is no clinical assessment of how healed a broken heart may or may not be.  So at some point, it’s up to you.  No surprise as a well-cushioned Taurus, I moved a little slow.  Somewhere in the last year, the propellers began to rotate here and there.  Kicking up mire and that sat previously undisturbed.  And in these cycles of clouding and clearing, I made more room.  More room for options, permissions, and allowances.  Forgiving people in earnest, not based in declaration or pomp.  Apologizing to others in sincerity, not hinging on manipulation or motive.  If I could term this time, it would be that everything was placed under review.  The mental equivalent of Janet’s favorite hobby: removing everything from your house, cleaning it, and scrutinizing each piece as it comes back in or is officially divorced from your life.  I learned things like I need a lot more white shorts and a lot fewer celebrity memoirs.  Not exactly enlightenment but I’m on the road. 

Pileated Woodpecker
This is challenging because you come face to face with the unrealized pieces of past and current dreams.  It’s confrontational and dusty, both mentally and physically.  Hopefully through this, your gaze is widened.  And where you lived in the myopic cycle of surviving the recovery, you can reset the course from decisions and plans you made while treading water.  The hardest part is accepting that failures along the way do not need to be final, they are allowed to just be knots in the wood. 
I came into the new year with a sense of restlessness and unease.  I needed to think.  And since I’m slow it took a while.  Like, I feel like for about five months my free time was spent with a vacant stare and radio silence.  Maybe I just got fat enough that I was in hibernation and didn’t know.   Regardless, it was good.  While my mind at work is a one way tunnel, my mind at rest is more like a summer treeline at dusk.  Between the squirrels boning, birds chirping, and lightning bugs twinkling, it’s hard to focus.  But as everything in my head boiled, steamed, and distilled, I began to get a vision for a new direction. Or another direction, I suppose.

So first things first, I am still going to do hair and have my salon.  I still love doing hair, I love my clients, and I think they love me. In addition to hair, I’m moving into real estate.  I’ve always thought about real estate, as it’s a natural fit with my talents (if we can call them that) and interests.  God knows I have an eye for detail and can work a list.  But it wasn’t until I braided in a Hilton Head connection that it made perfect sense.  As many of you have sensed, a part of me belongs down here.  Yet, not all of me.  If rain and wind-whipped October days amid the decadence of decay were no longer a part of my life, I don’t think any amount of dappled golden light dripping in through Spanish Moss could spackle the hole left in the absence of deciduous magic.  If you’re familiar with HHI, you know that it really could be OHHIO as the amount of Ohioans there practically makes it the Midwest.  So my working plan is to provide kind of concierge service, connecting with people in Ohio and then also working with them down in South Carolina.   I’m currently working on my Ohio license and will then also become licensed in South Carolina. 
I wanna live two places.  Can you do that? Have you done that?  This is where having a blog comes soo in handy.  So many of you are smart and experienced and willing to share.  Please share your thoughts about living two places at once.  Have you done it? How’d it go? Was it for work or pleasure? Have you owned a vacation rental?  Horror stories? Tell me, tell me, tell me.  If you are or hear of someone interested in Lowcountry real estate, thiiiiink of me.  My cell is 614-314-8099. Put me in your phone just in case! It’s written on most mens bathroom walls anyway. It’s 2017 and we all know privacy is dead.  Speaking of which, you may throw rocks at me and call me a hypocrite.  I am now on Instagram in official capacity.  Follow me! Or don’t, it’s fine.  I probably will actually post a photo of myself there though so if you’d like to grab a seat for the horror, it’ll be there. 

Gorgeous Red Headed Woodpecker

An Indigo Bunting! I hadn't ever seen one before.
So the plan at this point in time, is to buy a place down there as kind of an office, place to stay, place for Barbie, and maybe I’ll offset the expense by renting it in season.  I need to get my fucks in a row before I do that, but I’m hoping sooner than later.  I’m sorry to say this will all happen more slowly than rapidly.  It’s not really my nature to share things like this as they unfold, but I suppose sometimes we cannot be omniscient narrators in our own lives.  So rather than my usual practice of sitting here and updating you on the other side of whatever the focus of the story may be, I’m going to trepidatiously share a bit more in real time.  As Mr. Gorbachev and I tear down this wall, I’m wearing a little bit more vulnerability. Which, admittedly, makes my skin crawl.  But it’s good.  I’ve ended up opening myself to other phenomena of the natural world as well.  After all, change does have a ripple effect...
I’m sorry for the long silence and truly touched that some of you really missed me.  Thank you. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

At Least I'm Organized

Have you fucked up your resolutions yet?  I haven’t but I’m teetering.  What are yours? Mine are all the usual bullshit with a few easy ones peppered in there so no matter what on the eve of 2018 I can claim I accomplished the majority of my resolutions.  I’m bad enough at math that no matter what it always seems to work in my favor.  I was able to start the year on a very virtuous and strong note because I was on death’s doorstep with the flu.  Maybe not death’s doorstep but on the curb to its driveway.  Luckily when I’m sick I don’t crave comfort food I actually only crave citrus, cucumbers, and the sun.  Did you see that thing about the experimental drug that has early preliminary research it can stop about 90% of the spread of melanoma?  You better believe I’m going to send them some money.  Let’s hope they have it to market before summer.  I have such an unhealthy affection for the sun that whenever I see Magda all I can think is how happy she must have been.   
She's got her dog, her Kools, her bendy straw, her tan, her heavily embroidered fuchsia housecoat...she's got it all
For New Year's Eve I made Caesar salads...

Angel Hair tossed in truffle butter and mushroom with chive...

And chocolate cheesecake.  Everyone was ready to start their diets the next day!

Anyway, I am eagerly awaiting some time at the beach so that’s some good motivation to keep me from baking.  For today anyway.  I can’t help you with weight loss resolutions because of the elephant in the room but it seems another common resolution is to get more organized.  My weight might fluctuate more violently than the stock market, but I’m pretty consistently organized. 
I have inventories for everything.  Actually my weak way with weight and my strong way with order collide in my wardrobe because I have like 85 different wardrobes that range within about 1000 pounds.  It can be confusing trying to remember if I have a jumbo white polo with a blue monogram or a medium white polo with a pink monogram—or wait—were both monograms green?  Easy confusion to make when you have like 38 monogrammed white polos.  I think that’s why minimalists are always thin: they only need white polos in one size. 
But the first thing I ever made a formal inventory for was my tabletop collection.  This collection has expanded and reduced many times as my needs and tastes have changed.   Though currently nowhere near its all-time high, it ballooned a bit leading up to the holidays because I just kept finding such good stuff! So as I was updating my inventory this morning, I thought you might be interested in the process. 
It's so hard to find vintage/antique platters over 16 inches. I found four in one afternoon! The bottom one is circa 1900 Limgoes and 20 inches! 

It’s a very straightforward endeavor.  I use a dry-erase board to write what something is, measurements, and quantity if necessary.  If it’s something that is stored in boxes where contents cannot easily be seen, I assign a letter and number to the box like O-4 and write that on the dry erase board in the photo too.  So I’ll not only know that I have 23 turquoise 4 inch ornaments but they are in box #4 of the ornament boxes.  It takes so little time and makes managing a lot of stuff a lot easier.  I like having options and different looks for the seasons

I found these in May 2016 and used them for Thanksgiving

Spode Maritime Rose.  I started collecting this pattern last Easter and have done pretty well considering its scarcity.  

I looooooove this Limoges pattern.  Still trying to find its name.  

Take a photo, and organize in albums on my phone or iPad. 
Hit the plus sign in the top left corner

 New Album...

You can use this system to inventory anything

I have the albums organized by type of plate/glass since I like to set mix and match tables.  You might prefer to organize by pattern.  While you may not have skeletal to manatee sized white polos to wrangle or too many china patterns to keep straight, I’m sure you have a lot of something that could benefit from an inventory. 

I found these two pink-bordered trays in early December (actually on my GG's birthday and this was her favorite color...) and I am in love with them.  I can't find any information on them.  Do they look familiar to you? I'm wondering if they were made for a hotel or restaurant. 

Do you recognize this crest?  

The marks on the back.  I take it Soane & Smith was a store but I can't find any information. 

In another direction, one of my more altruistic resolutions is to grow an abundance of milkweed and hopefully provide habitat and forage for Monarch butterflies.   I only saw one Monarch last year and that is quite depressing.  I realized it’s all my fault for not having any milkweed.  So I plan to start some from seed both to keep and to give away. It’s easy to grow and terribly unfussy. If you don’t already allocate some space for it, I urge you to.  This is worth mentioning now because the seeds perform best when given a month or so in the refrigerator.  I’ll start mine in March, but if you live in a more moderate climate, the time might be sooner.  Soooo… nudge nudge.  
Doesn't it look cold out that window?  It was about 2 degrees! 

Often in the winter I like to use an abundance of colored glasses and lanterns for candles instead of flowers.  The cut glass illuminates so beautifully! And I love the flickering snowflake shadows