Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

As far back as I can remember, Thanksgiving has always been my favorite holiday. No matter how busy life might be, there is one day in the year which demands you take a deep breath, pour a glass of wine and share delicious food with your family.

Thanks to ridiculous airline prices and living on a student loan paying- about to switch jobs/take a pay cut-living in Manhattan budget, this will be the first year I have not joined my family for Thanksgiving.

I won't be there to make the pumpkin pie, lay around in my pajamas, whisk just-plated items from the kitchen to the table, open the wine and try to stay out of the way as Mum and Dad whip up a feast too big for just four people. I won't consume scary amounts of Daddy's mashed potatoes (a gut-bomb secretly disguised by delicious, if not unhealthy, amounts of butter and cream). And I won't be there to make just enough room to fit in some pie.
On top of all that, all those things that make me love Thanksgiving, I will miss out on selecting the Christmas tree, decorating the house for Christmas and turkey pie.

Needless to say, this year will be a bit strange - a depart for the tradition that I so enjoy. Mike's father generously decided to fly us both down to South Carolina Thanksgiving morning for a long weekend. I'm excited to spend Thanksgiving with Mike because, at this point, I consider him family and holidays don't seem the same without him.

I don't know what to expect, I don't know the Thanksgiving traditions of another family. I feel like an adult, about to embark on new traditions that will become my own.

As much fun as creating new traditions can be, I don't like breaking old traditions. So to keep one of my favorite traditions going, even though I won't be sitting around the table with my family, here is what I am thankful for:

I am thankful for my family. I feel so lucky to have a family that loves each other and supports one another no matter what. The values that my parents taught me have kept me grounded and focused on what is truly important in life. I am thankful they were behind me 100% when I decided to pursue my passion of baking. I wish we didn't have to be so far apart.

I am thankful for Mike and our relationship. He's been an amazing support this year as I have tried to balance work, school, internship and life. He was always ready with an encouraging word or hug when I didn't think I could keep up the schedule anymore. The time we actually have for each other is limited, but we always make the most of it. I'm thankful I can come home to my best friend every night.

I am thankful for the opportunities I have been given and chosen to pursue. Yes, my schedule sucks right now. But, when I stop to think about it, life isn't so bad. I live in a beautiful apartment in Manhattan with a wonderful guy, I am pursing my dream career, I have a wonderful family, I have money to pay my bills and usually a little left over. The things I would like to change about my life will change soon enough and this will bring a new set of challenges.

If I shut my eyes, I can hear Daddy pouring the first glass of wine as everyone waits anxiously to dig into the feast. I am home in spirit, always.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Race to Deliver

On Sunday morning, at a chilly 9 AM, I was smiling as I crossed the finish line of my ninth race of the year. What's so special about my ninth race, you might ask? It means that I qualified for the 2010 NYC Marathon!!!

The road to qualifying was littered with three pairs for running shoes, tough long runs, boring lunch-hour treadmill runs, more than a few upset stomachs, a few picture-esqe Fall runs through Central Park and alarms waking me up for races when I would have rather been sleeping. It wove it's way through my job, school, externship and life.

The taste of victory was sweet (or maybe those were the chocolate chip pancakes?). At least until I remembered that, in this case, victory means a $150 entry fee, four months of training and a 26.2 mile race. Oh.

I approached my last race with no expectations of a finish time I wanted to achieve. Life has been a little hectic with working 14-16 hour days, leaving little time for training. Usually on the weekends, I have just enough energy to walk out to the kitchen, make a big pot of coffee climb back into bed for a few hours. Even when I have the best intentions to do a long run, these usually melt away with my first sip of coffee.

It was a four mile race, which doesn't beg for a regimented training schedule. But the distance was long enough that I was a bit nervous on race day. My "training" had included logging only about 10 miles a week (although I was doing more cross-training), not enough sleep, consuming large amounts of caffeine and not running outside in...awhile. Oh, and I ate Shake Shake the day before and had a heavy beer (Gonzo! On Cask!) before I went to sleep.

I couldn't find my watch before I left for the race and realized that it probably didn't matter too much. I didn't care about my splits. My goal was to finish. I made Mike promise that if I tripped (not unlikely) and broke my leg before I crossed the finish line, he would pull me across so I would still qualify. I think he was happy I didn't trip.

I felt calm and like I was running a good pace - not a PR pace, but definitely a comfortable pace. The hills immediately made it known that I had not visited them enough in the past weeks. The miles seemed to slip by and before I knew it, my iPod was playing "Empire State of Mind" and I could see the finish line.

So imagine my surprise when, later that morning, I opened up my computer to check my finish time and found I had, in fact, set a PR. Four miles in 29 minutes 50 seconds; average split time of 7 minutes 27 seconds.

My worst training routine yielded the fastest average split time by 16 seconds. After a year of training, racing and the surprises all that brings, I guess I shouldn't have been shocked.

It almost makes me want to take the same approach to next year's marathon training. Almost.

Mark it down: November 7, 2010. ING NYC Marathon. I'm in!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Peanut Butter Kiss Cookies

Mike requested I make one of his favorite cookies - peanut butter Kiss cookies, with dark chocolate Hershey Kisses.

Of all the interesting desserts I have made and brought home from school, Mike still loves the cookies I've been able to make since middle school.

The homey, sweet smell of peanut butter cookies baking in the oven weaved its way through the apartment this beautiful Saturday evening. The chocolate began melting, giving off a beautiful sheen as soon as it was submerged in the warm cookies.

And I took comfort in the fact that even the most basic recipe, a recipe that requires no fancy ingredients or the most expensive chocolate, was enough.

Enough to be requested over all the recipes I could prepare, enough to provide a moment when, with that first bite, we both let out a collective, "Mmmmmmmmm."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Lilies & Pearls Birthday Cake

While I wasn't working my day job or night job this week, I busy at work in my little kitchen, creating a custom birthday cake.

This cake was designed and created for a co-worker, and close friend, who is celebrating the birthday of her younger brother's girlfriend.

A large, but delicate bouquet of calla lilies adorned the top of the baby blue cake. A quilting effect was used on the sides, embellished with pearl dragees.

The cake was finished with large pearls enrobed around the bottom. The requested flavor of the cake was chocolate with chocolate-hazelnut buttercream.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Banana Bread

The coffee is brewing as I slice into a fresh loaf of banana bread.

The weekend is over tomorrow, which makes me sullen. I feel trapped in my job. Sometimes I don’t think I will ever see the day when I can leave it for good.

Keeping up this schedule each week is exhausting and I can see the toll it is taking in the dark circles under my eyes, visible through my fair skin.

My mind races with my never-ending “To Do” list. So many things I have to put off for another day, another week.

I want to take an hour-long bubble bath, extra bubbly, with Michael Buble serenading me. I want to revisit the lingering lunch Mike and I shared, way back in January, in a cozy restaurant with good food, good beer and snow falling outside. I want to sit on the porch in Virginia with a big glass of wine and my family around me.


I sit and take a sip of coffee, a bite of banana bread. Mike joins me. For five minutes, all of my worries are forgotten.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Slacking, Somewhat

I know I have been slacking on updating my blog, but I like to think this is with good reason.

If life was not already hectic enough, between work, my externship and still trying to have some semblance of a normal, 20-something year old life in Manhattan - I've launched my own website.

Why did I do this, you might ask? Well, as soon as I finished the classroom portion of the ICE pastry program, I was asked to design and produce several custom cakes by co-workers. I loved designing and making cakes during the program - and I was more than happy to fulfill these requests.

But I decided I wanted a place where I could start showcasing my work and direct to-be customers towards in the future.

Thus was born "Dolcetto Confections". "Dolcetto" is my favorite Italian word, which is actually a type of grape, meaning "little sweet one".

It is still very much under construction, but I wanted to introduce you:

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Prosciutto & Cheddar Biscuits

Arriving home much earlier than anticipated, due to the date mix-up at Gramercy, I faced a question I had avoided for the last half year - what's for dinner?

I was feeling pretty worn-out from my cold and a little homesick. So it was time for some serious comfort food. I picked-up the ingredients for chicken noodle soup and biscuits on my way home.

As I opened up the refrigerator, I discovered a bit of cheddar cheese and prosciutto left over from dinners the previous week. Hmmmmm.

I shredded up the remainder of the cheese and chopped the prosciutto, adding them to the biscuits just before adding the milk.

They were a yummy variation on an already solid recipe. Cheesy, salty deliciousness.
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