Wednesday, July 30, 2008

July's Daring Bakers Challenge - Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream~!

I completed my first Daring Bakers Challenge!!! Whoohoo!!!
This month's assignment was to make a Filbert Gateau. Filbert is a fancy way of saying Hazelnut and Gateau is a fancy way of saying cake. So basically, a hazelnut cake. The challenge was chosen by Mele Cotte of the Daring Bakers. I kid you not, I spent like 12 hours on this baby, over the course of two days! The recipe itself was 8 pages long! But I had reserved a Saturday just for this purpose and took my time getting all the ingredients and going through each step before taking it on.

And let me tell you, I was pretty nervous attempting this, because there was a lot of things I had NEVER done before. Like for example, the cake itself is made completely from scratch (which I have never done before) using hazelnuts that I bought whole, then toasted, then peeled, then grounded up into a fine powder and then sifted into the cake batter!! Yeah, not easy.

After the cakes were baked, I melted up a vanilla syrup to spread over the cakes (though the recipe calls for a rum syrup, I'm allergic to alcohol, so I went with Vanilla instead) and let them cool for a while.

I then attacked my first attempt at Swiss Buttercream. And it turned out beautifully! I'm so excited I know how to make this now! It was too rich for Jason's liking, but the praline paste was up next, which got added to the buttercream and added a nice crunch to it, and also cut the sweetness a bit.

Now at this point, we were supposed to make an apricot glaze for on top of the cake, but Jason and I really can't stand fruit and chocolate mixed, so I substituted the apricot glaze for a melted caramel. After all, why go to all these hours making a cake that we could never enjoy!
AFTER THAT, I also had my first shot at chocolate ganache, which I had decided to use Ghirardelli Chocolate. Divine people. DIVINE.
Assembling the cake took some time and focus, and once it was all put together, I piped the buttercream on top with a bit of hazelnut (aka filbert) for decoration.
There was no way Jason and I were going to be left all alone with this cake, so I brought it our small group dinner. Thing is, it was still so cold that it was hard to slice and eat. I should have thawed it longer, but in this 95 degree heat, I was afraid my ganache would melt.

It was good, but in my opinion not so good that it was worth all the work. I can think of better cakes that take a whole lot less time and effort.

But still, it was a challenge and I'm very proud of myself for not getting too overwhelmed and taking it head on!! I would include the recipe here, but because it really is 8 pages long, just leave a comment if you're interested and I'll email it to you!
Can't wait for this next months challenge!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Jason's Awesomeness

So I have this thing with Jason's facial hair. I'm a huge fan of when he keeps it all scruffy and Jack-like from Lost. Yummy.

But every time we head off to vacation, he takes the opportunity to shave it all off so his skin can breathe.

I thought you might all enjoy seeing the transformation take place, because truly it is quite a process and we go through this EVERY time we head out on vacation.

Everybody now....."awwwww". In this pic, he's looking all cute, scruffy and lovable - I just want to squeeze him!

During- Phase I:
Ok is it just me or has he morphed into a wanted-man who drives an 18 wheeler? SCARY!

During - Phase II:
Um, do I need words for this one?

After, MUCH After:
Aw yes, back to my hot, scruffy and yet goofball of a husband! Gotta love it!

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Yup, its been a week.

Sorry folks but I've just not been up to blogging lately. You see, I started advertising some freelance transcript services on Craigslist a while back and I got a bite. I was hoping to make a little extra cash to satisfy my spending cravings, so I thought what better way than to offer my typing skillz while sitting in the comfort of my own home in my pj's? Easy money right?


Yes, initially it was a great idea and I did land myself an awesome client from it. But at the same time, I WAY over committed myself into a gig where I had to transcribe NINE sermons in two weeknights and a weekend!!! I must have been feeling either incredibly over-confident or incredibly naive, because I was all - "sure, not a problem!". And the next thing I know, I'm not showering for two days with matted hair, swollen fingers, eating an entire box of Mini Nilla Wafers and then drank a bazillion glasses of sweet tea. All for like $5 an hour or something ridiculous like that. My bad.

Jason was all too sweet to offer to help, and without him I wouldn't have made my deadline, so he set to transcribing BY HAND in the living room with a pen and paper, while I was molding my butt into the shape of our office chair. Can I just say I'm still sore?

But I learned a valuable lesson from that weekend and will be now charging by the page, instead by the recorded hour. I am very grateful to have landed a wonderful, regular client where I'll be making some extra moola in the future.

The sermons I transcribed were for a local pastor by the name of Bishop Joseph Walker from Mt. Zion Baptist Church. This church, I kid you not, has over 21,000 members and like 4 locations. The pastor will literally drive from one service to the next doing like 6 services on one Sunday alone and leads two Bible studies during the week. Wow. And it was nothing short of the most entertaining and passionate messages I've ever heard - "CAN I GET A WITNESS UP IN HERE?!!" He embodies a true Sourthern Baptist Bishop pastor like you ever would imagine and I loved every minute of his messages.

Here were some of my favorite lines:

"You look at me when my money gets funny and my change is strange and my credit can't get it.."

and here's another phrase he said that just killed me....

"You will not come out of the wilderness Israel until God’s will is perfected in your life. Somebody needs to receive that word today because you’ve been praying, you’ve been crying, you’ve been kicking, you’ve been screaming, you’ve been saying, "Lord I’m ready to come out of this." But God says, "You’re not coming out until My will is perfected in your life. You can kick and scream under every conference, you can all get slapped on your forehead till you’re like a pig at the county fair, but you aint coming out until God’s will happens in your life."

or how about this one:

"Let’s be clear, God said, "First of all, the wilderness should have taught you that I don’t tolerate pride. That I had to take you through a wilderness to humble your tail because there are times in all of our lives where we get too big for our britches, where we get a big head, where we think we’ve got it going on."

And this is all just from one of the nine messages, it was seriously exhausting to type out, but so awesome to listen to!!

I got my church on!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Work Funnies

I had to share with y'all some hilarious things I've recently heard at work.

This morning I left for work with pillow lines on my face, arms and stomach. After sleeping through my alarm I only had 15 minutes to get ready and kiss Jason goodbye before stumbling out the door. As soon as I got in the office, I beelined to the kitchen to find myself a mug and creamer for the coffee I knew would be waiting at my desk (yes I have a coffee maker in my cubicle - its how I roll). My office manager Mary, who I absolutely love, was sitting at the table reading the morning paper and noticed my sluggishness. This is the conversation that then took place:

Mary: You look a little tired this morning.

Me: I'm so ridiculously exhausted. Once again I didn't get to bed before midnight.

Mary: Here's what you need to do. When you get home, take a nap, then get up to play with your husband and then go back to bed.

Uh-hum... truth is I went to bed late because we were at Jason's baseball game for over 2 hours and didn't get home till past 11pm, but I didn't get the chance to actually tell her that before she put her two cents in. You gotta love the free advice from the office manager - ha!!! Love that woman.

Then yesterday my attorney Paul comes up to my desk to share what his eldest of four boys said on the way to his dreaded baseball practice the other day. I laughed so hard, just try to imagine a 9 year old having this conversation with his mom.

Mom: Once we get to the park, how am I supposed to know what field your playing on?

Son: Just look for the sign that says, "Welcome to my personal hell".

Hope those bring a smile to your face as they did mine!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Oh sweet Rainiers' how I love thee

I finally got my hands on some sweet Rainier cherries and ate an entire pound of them!!!

I'm a lucky, lucky woman....

...but Jason is going to be a sorry, sorry man.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Lincoln City, OR

Well now that I'm back and more settled into my daily routine, I have a few moments to catch everyone up our trip out to Lincoln City, Oregon to meet up with our families for a week at the Oregon coast. Both my entire family and Jason's entire family drove out the beach house, while Kati came to pick up Jason and I in Portland where we had flown into. Thankfully, we were able to get a nice quiet evening alone together the night before and stay in a lovely hotel relaxing and catching up on life. Then the following day, the excitement really began.

It had been 7 months since I had seen my family and a year since Jason had seen his. A long time for both of us. Emotions were running high as we had anticipated every hug and moment we'd get to share together. It was hard to even go to bed the first night, cause you just didn't want to say goodnight. On the whole, it was a great week. But it is family and as everyone can testify, we all have our moments. :-)

The majority of the trip was captured with snapshots of our time together and looking back on these pictures I can't help but smile at how much fun we really did have.

This is the view of the ocean from the beach house we had rented. You could hear the waves crashing at night, which I think was one of my favorite parts about the house.The second day of our week together, we all headed out to the Kite Festival. It was a cold windy day, which I guess is perfect for kite flying! When we weren't out exploring the towns, you could find us either curled up with a good book, working on puzzles (of which 3 were completed within just hours!), playing games

or catching a quick nap.I think one of the most entertaining aspects of the trip was the constant whooping Jerry gave to Jason and my dad in horseshoes. What a competitor!! The man has skillz!
The views of the ocean and all the wildlife was breathtaking!Oops, my sisters are definitely wild, full of life and breathtaking, but not exactly what I was referring to!A few of the family were able to see this seal out lounging in the sun on the rocks - so mad I missed this one! But Scott, Kelley, myself and Jason did see a whale! You can only sit just a tip of it in this picture here. And if this isn't classic Jason and I, I don't know what is. He was always trying to get right up to the edge of the rocks and I was doing my best to stay as clear from the edge as possible!

So it looked like this when we finally sat down to enjoy the view.

Another excursion we all took together was to see the Aquarium in Newport. Jason and I were big fans of the otters. In fact it was the first otters Jason had ever seen in person.
See how mesmerized he was by them?
Jerry's impression of a deep sea diver kills me.
Or how about Jason with the shark teeth!
And no trip to the Aquarium would be complete without our very own cameraman.
Jason did his best to blend in with the wildlife.
Oh and who could forget our attempt at a hike!! Ha! We had no idea what we were really getting ourselves into, so quite a few of us were a bit unprepared. We decided instead to head to the beach for a little sun and Frisbee and attempt the hike the next morning, but the weather had other plans.
Ummm..yummy, Jason doing his best Top Gun Beach scene impression. Ok maybe not exactly, but he was tossing the Frisbee around with Scott and Jerry. I think this was one of my favorite moments captured in a photo - because the times I'll remember most are the ones we all sat around the table eating together or playing games.
Here's to a great family trip together - PEACE OUT!

Monday, July 07, 2008

Back from Oregon

Hey y'all! We're back from the Oregon Coast and have done nothing but rest up since we walked in the front door. Our friend Jeff Batson picked us up from the airport at 9am Saturday morning after taking a redeye flight through Chicago and after dumping our stuff in the living room we crawled into bed and slept till 5pm. You'd think we would have been up all night, but after I read half a book and Jason watched the Boston Red Sox & Yankees game last night, we found ourselves back in bed again for another 8 hours of sleep.

I will say, it was really nice to walk through the front door of our own home and crawl into our own bed. When I woke up I had my beautiful man on one side of me and my sweet Banks curled up next to me on the other, it was sheer bliss.

I'm back at work now trying to adjust to the time change and the hot weather - not an easy thing to do. Once I'm able to get some pictures from my family of the trip, I'll post more details of the week on the Coast. Why is it that vacationing can sometimes be so exhausting?

More to come soon....