Archive | February, 2011

Feb
28
2011
A Room Of My Own

I realize this is my second memoir style post in a week. Bear with me…I’m trying a writing exercise, as I have realized since starting this blog that my writing could use some work.

**************************

For my first taste of freedom, the amount of space I’m given is a little confining. A tall person could stretch their arms out and touch a wall on both sides of the room. But all 100 square feet is mine. The best of both worlds, a single in a suite. I’m a very lucky freshman.

I complain grumpily that my hall mates only stop by so often to play my Nintendo and watch my TV, but deep down I know that isn’t true. And I love that my room is often filled with people. With a single, all I need to do for privacy is shut the door, but the room feels so much smaller with the door closed.

This closet-sized room is my haven, and there I have long and intense conversations late into the night with the boy I love. He lives just across the hall and I pine for him long after it’s reasonable to hope for anything beyond friendship.

The people on the hall become a kind of family and the arrival of someone new upsets the balance. I have noticed, of course, that new guy has transferred here and is hanging out with us a lot, but he has not made an impression on me. And now, he wants to walk me home from a party.

I only go to the damn party because I hear her voice. The boy I loved was spending more and more time with her and there was her voice, unmistakable, drifting in from the hallway. So I go to the overcrowded party and immediately regret it. New guy does not want to stay either.

“This party is over.”

He decides to leave the others behind and he takes me on a convoluted path back to my building. He believes I am drunk. I insist, accurately, that I am sober.

“I don’t think you would be talking to me so friendly if you were sober.”

I had never really spoken to him before this night and the experience is strange, unlike any other, but not bad, and we say good night in the hallway. At my room, there’s a message from a friend, who I had planned on visiting anyway. Ironically, he likes her too and we bond over the fact that our unrequited love interests seem to be requiting each other. However, new guy is still in the hallway and thwarts my attempt to cross the hall.

“Can I talk to you?”

We go to my room and he closes the door behind us, which makes me immediately uncomfortable. The room is silent and dark, with only a soft glow from the street lights outside coming in through the window. He stops me from turning on the light (“I like the dark”) and asks if he can sit next to me on my bed. I stare straight forward, focused on the darkness of my open closet, while he throws out line after line, trying to gauge my reactions.

“You can tell a lot about a person from their room.”

I’m apparently “sophisticated,” I apparently “look really nice that night,” and he apparently “never thought he would be in my room talking to me.” That makes two of us.

He eventually deems me “too smart to play games with.” He says that he’s never asked a girl if he can kiss her before. What a coincidence, I’ve never been kissed before!

Conflicting thoughts flood my mind:

I’m not really attracted to him, although he is attractive, and his confidence (he is two years older) and flattery is, well, flattering.

But he’s not the boy I love.

But the boy I love is falling in love with someone else. And I’m sick of never having been kissed. Maybe I should just say yes and get this thing done.

I look over at him, I’m taking too long to respond. I’m indecisive, yet honest.

“I don’t know.”

He takes that as a yes, and my first kiss results. I’m frozen and can’t make myself kiss him back, yet he persists for what seems like forever. I pull away. Somehow it does not end as awkwardly as it could and when he leaves I understand that the door is still open if I change my mind.

When he is gone, I lie on the floor of my room and cry a little. I’m sorry that I let him in here and I think I already know I am going to settle for him.

Feb
26
2011
Playlist Week 7: You Only Have To Look Behind You At Who’s Undermined You

I’m challenging myself to get through a whole shuffle of my music collection on my iPod without skipping. Then I write about what I heard each week.

Not a super exciting week in the shuffle, not as much to highlight this week.

The title of the post comes from: Ladytron ‘Destroy Everything You Touch’ This song came out around the time that we bought our new house before selling our townhouse. Here’s a tip–don’t do that. Between anxiously waiting for someone to buy our townhouse (while paying two mortgages) and some serious work-related stress, this song helped the anger bubble up in a safe way.

Here is the weekly summary:

* Songs listened to this week:  98 (there was a 20 minute or so segment of an old radio show “Off the Record” featuring the Police this week so that didn’t help the numbers)
* Completed:  34%
* Number of double shots: 3 (The Beatles, The Police * 2)
* Number of triple shots:  The Police (2 were ‘Roxanne’, the original and one live)

The live version was a bootleg from the reunion tour’s stop in Cleveland, which I attended with my brother (seemed fitting to see a show with him, since I would have seen the Buffalo Synchronicity show with him, if our Mom had let us go). I usually skip the reunion tour bootlegs, because they are a little hard for me to listen to. Don’t get me wrong, I am so grateful that they did the tour and finally gave me a chance to see them live (since my only other chance was evilly and cruelly denied me by my mother, have I mentioned that?!?). But some of the song “Stingifications” bothered me (songs were slower, Sting was doing a lot of scat type vocalizing/mumbling, both of which annoyed me). So I’m not sure I ever heard this ”Roxanne’ bootleg before.

On the bootleg, Sting’s voice sounds rough. I totally give him props for going for it though (I don’t mind key changes to save an aging voice, but I do respect someone, like Geddy Lee, for example, who just goes for it anyway). Anyway, about 1:30 in, after a couple of lines where his voice cracked, Sting seems to mutter “I can’t even sing this one,” and lets the audience sing for a second. This is strange, because I was THERE at that concert and don’t remember the voice cracking or the comment. I found Sting’s comment so charming on the bootleg that it actually made me feel a little bad for complaining about his performance on the tour (I actually started arguments about this on the Police online forums during the tour, I’m so skilled at connecting with people!).

Since I had no memory of this singing difficulty or comment from the concert, I did a search on You Tube to clarify. Luckily I found a short video that actually contains the right part of the performance. The voice breaks are harder to hear on this video, so maybe the bootleg was produced in a way that made the vocals more clear. Sting’s comment comes around 0:39, and in the video is harder to make out and since he walks away from his mic, almost looks like he was just encouraging audience participation. What do you think?

* Percentage of songs that came up during running that were so totally not helpful in motivating my running:  17% (great running selections this week, it was a miracle!)

* Song I forgot to mention last week: The Police ‘Spirits in the Material World’

Dave’s guitar teacher runs what he calls “Jam Class” for his students to live out their rock star fantasies. They even played a show at a local bar in December (check out Dave in the background–he’s behind the singer some of the time–in this video, also check out the charming lyrical addition towards the end: “Rendition… Guantanamo… Waterboarding… Done Dirt Cheap!”). Apparently they are working on new songs for another show in May and one of the new selections this go ’round is ‘Spirits.’ So I’m…concerned. I just can’t imagine this going well. The guitar teacher plays drums for his students’ “band,” and he does a wonderful job, but he is a guitarist and this is the Police we’re talking about. Stewart’s drumming is…uh, well, it’s hard, no???

* Number of songs that I’m so totally deleting: Apollo 440 ‘High on Your Own Supply’ This song is awful. I’d never gotten through it before and now I understand that I wasn’t missing anything. Why must I always rip an entire CD?

* Best Dave mix song:  Sprites ‘I Love You, You Retard’

Dave was right on with this selection, about male doofiness. He’s a genius, but can’t remember a phone number.

play#Sprites:I+Love+You%2C+You+Retard:6984533:s40074998.10751186.18887949.0.2.39%2Cstd_f867347e109345cbbb0aa0f0eb989583

* Random memories:

Nine Inch Nails ‘Legend of Zelda’ I wish that the video were more than just the audio. Hearing the Zelda music takes me right back to my Mom’s living room where I sat on the floor playing Zelda for hours, until my ass went numb. “Downward thrust!” We also enjoyed referring to the process of the fairy replenishing Link’s hearts as “wanking.”

Dead Can Dance ‘American Dreaming’

WBER played this a lot during my first year of grad school. I remember hearing it all the time when I drove back and forth to school, contemplating life (which went something like: “what the hell am I doing?”). I fell into this program. I didn’t know what to do with my life and one of my professors recommended me for this program. I applied mostly because it seemed like I had no other option. My school offered a 3-2 program where you could finish your undergraduate degree in 3 years and then the Master’s the last 2. My course of study to that point had not been the most wise, from a career building stand point, so this Master’s seemed like the thing to do. The first year I felt in over my head (I had always imagined my senior year being filled with courses like “Underwater Basketweaving” and creative scheduling to maximize days off, but instead I was taking challenging courses five days a week, starting each day at 8:30am, with abundant homework) and not sure at all that I wanted to finish. This song matched the feeling I had at the time of being adrift. The first line is my favorite, though I interpret “the promised land” in my own way.

“I need my conscience to keep watch over me
To protect me from myself
So I can wear honesty like a crown on my head when I walk into the promised land”

For me, this is about my own personal sense of honor.

Then there’s:

“We’ve been too long american dreaming
I think we’ve all lost the way
Forlorn somnambulistic maniacal in the dark”

I definitely had the sense I was sleepwalking through my life trying to get through grad school, I fought with myself over whether to quit several times over the first two semesters. When I successfully finished the first of the two years, I knew I just had to buckle down and finish. The early days of my career were spent living apart from Dave, who was still finishing his graduate degree. While I have many happy memories of those years and the new friends I made, I felt like my life was on hold waiting for Dave to arrive. I thought the day would never come, but somehow it’s been over 11 years since Dave moved here and it flashed by so quickly it’s frightening. I don’t want to sleepwalk through life, that’s partially why I started writing here, just to document things, to be more conscious of how I spend my time (for instance, having to basically re-write this post when WordPress decided to not save most of my last edits before publishing!).

Feb
24
2011
My Name Is…

Dooce is running a contest to celebrate her 10th blogging anniversary and the topic is:  what is your nickname, and why?

My nickname is Satan. I think the why is rather obvious, but since almost everyone who has ever heard my nickname has been dumb enough to ask the why question, I guess you can ask too.

It’s because I am evil.

While it would be cheeky to leave it at that, there is obviously more to the story. In college, one of the first people I met on my hall was the guy who quickly let me know that I was from hell. He stopped by my suite and performed card tricks for me. The tricks really weren’t the mind-blowing feats of magic he had promised. And I told him so–repeatedly and rather obnoxiously. I teased him about it mercilessly, probably at least partially because I was trying to maintain some level of cool in the face of such adorableness. Strangely, even after so many years I still hesitate to share the fact of this unrequited love as if it’s a secret that was or is worth guarding. But that’s silly, because although I told no one of these feelings at the time, I’m sure there was no one who didn’t know, including the other guy I ended up dating the next semester. Awkward!

Apparently nickname-giver couldn’t accept the lack of impression his card tricks made on me, because “everyone had always been amazed by them in the past.” So he told me I was from hell, which eventually led to being called Satan. My entire freshman year (and occasionally beyond) the people I knew from the hall would introduce me to others as Satan. It was both a blessing (ha!) and a curse (ha-ha!). While it got a little old to have everyone think of me as evil (although I think they were kidding!), the nickname was quite the conversation starter. Don’t underestimate the power of a good conversation starter.

Somehow this all morphed into the pseudo-biblical EZ Cheese saga. My lovable hallmates (I believe I called them bastards at the time, see entry #6) decided it would be fun to spray EZ Cheese all over my door and while I thought it was funny I went batshit crazy on them and demanded that they clean it up. Shortly after, the EZ Cheese was replaced with this:

Some of the entries were more clever than others. I particularly liked #2 and #6, which is actually related to the original EZ Cheese incident.

Quite frankly the one that ended up making me laugh the hardest was the following entry, provided by the born again Christian who lived at the end of the hall. Her real concern for me given  the blasphemy of having fake bible passages on my door cracked my shit up. I don’t know God personally, but I can’t imagine he would concern himself with this kind of thing, but her concern was really rather sweet. The other authors wanted to take it down, but I insisted that it remain. The completely earnest addition of the authentic bible passage made the whole thing so much more amusing.

I cannot tell you how many times I heard “Enjoy these days, they will be the best of your life,” before I went off to college. I cannot tell you how many times I rolled my eyes and said, “yeah whatever” in response. I didn’t really understand then, but do now. While life is pretty great right now, there’s something about that first taste of freedom, coupled with a glorious lack of responsibility, that can never be duplicated.

Finally, there’s the Will It Blend EZ Cheese episode, which I can’t resist sharing.

Feb
22
2011
Now We’re Cleansing With Oil

Using oil to clean my oily skin is one of the most counter intuitive things I’ve read about in a long time. But if people on the internet jump off a bridge…

Actually, some of the arguments made sense (oil dissolves oil, using products that strip away all your natural oils makes your skin produce more oil, etc…) and when I mentioned it to Dave, rather than looking at me like I was crazy, he started going on about the Romans and how they used oil in their baths, and used a special tool to scrape it off and blah, blah, blah…  That he didn’t immediately think it was a stupid idea was enough for me, I didn’t need any further details about ancient cultures and why does he know all of this useless information about ancient cultures when he can’t remember that I want cream cheese to spread on my bagels?

I started doing research about the appropriate oil mix for my skin type, but laziness and fear of making a royal mess and commitment threatened to end this oil cleansing experiment before it began (didn’t feel like shopping for different oils and mixing a proper concoction myself seemed like a recipe for oil spilling disaster and would leave me with a lot of oil). Then Cave Girl came to the rescue and suggested a premade product. She warned that it would be more cost-effective to mix my own oils, but since I’m skeptical about this thing and I’m lazy, I opted for ordering a small amount of Touchy Oil Cleanser for oily skin. Hopefully, the amount I ordered will last me long enough to decide whether or not it’s working for me. Some of what I read online about this is repulsive, yet strangely fascinating. Apparently after a few minutes of massaging the oil into your skin, you will start to feel sebum plugs that have been released. Repulsive, no? Oh, but how I had hoped this would actually happen. Die blackheads die!

I had a feeling that this would either be one of the stupidest things I’d ever done or one of the greatest things ever, but so far (about a week in) it just seems like it takes a lot longer to wash my face than it used to and that I need to buy more washcloths (neither Dave nor I use washcloths, so we only have a few for guests and I’ve already gone through them all this week). I’ve done the oil cleanse three or four times since I started (I’m doing it every other evening as much of what I read online suggested). I had sort of convinced myself that my skin might look a minuscule amount nicer after the first few days, but by the end of last week I realized it looked the same. No blackhead improvement and actually a few small break outs. I am also disappointed that I don’t seem to be getting that sebum plug removal that many online reviewers mentioned. It’s not that I’m not being thorough, the first night I massaged the oil into my skin for 15 damn minutes. I thought I’d give myself carpal tunnel. My arms started to feel the weight of holding them up so long. I’ve since been doing it for about 10 minutes each time. Then I steam with the hot washcloth 3-4 times and wipe my face. My face feels clean after, so think I’m getting all the oil off.

I had been hoping I’d produce less oil, but so far no dice. In the mornings, my face is as oily as ever, perhaps a little more. I think I might look a little less shiny though.

I’m also confused about this process in terms of skin care overall. In the mornings, I’m OK with just rinsing with warm water, but in the evenings I really need to wash my makeup off. So if I’m not supposed to oil cleanse every night and I’m not supposed to use soap, then what? One night I did a very abbreviated oil cleanse but that’s still a pain because of the time (and washcloth!) it takes to remove the oil. A couple of other nights I just used my usual Dove. I also assume that I can still use my regular sunscreen, but I couldn’t find guidance on this (what I’ve found online is to use a tiny bit of the oil as a moisturizer if your skin feels tight, but I haven’t found guidance about sunscreens that are compatible with this method).

I hate when I get all excited about a new personal care product (Biore strips anyone?) and then it doesn’t deliver, but I plan on giving the oil cleansing method a couple more weeks, at least every other night, no soap, no Oil of Olay, just my sunscreen in the morning. It needs to show much better results than it has to this point if I’m going to stick with it though, because it’s pretty time consuming.

Feb
20
2011
Playlist Week 6: So Then I Got This Idea About Driving A Cheesecake Truck

I’m challenging myself to get through a whole shuffle of my music collection on my iPod without skipping. Then I write about what I heard each week.

I have been playing the game Collapse on my iPod while listening to the shuffle on my commute. Perhaps it’s cheating, because it allows me extra entertainment during songs I would ordinarily skip, but I have grown attached to playing it, particularly in ‘Quest’ mode. I finished the entire quest this week. I was unreasonably depressed by this. I will miss Collapse Quest.

Choosing a post title was a tough call this week. I would have selected “Let Me Tell You ‘Bout The Fucking Bitch,” but the best You Tube link was of Ween playing the song (‘Common Bitch’) live and Gene doesn’t say this beginning line. Bummer. But here’s the video anyway, I like how they are celebrating Women’s Day, so sweet of them to remember.

The title this week is from King Missile’s ‘Cheesecake Truck.’ Maybe I should get a job driving a cupcake delivery truck?

Here is the weekly summary:

* Songs listened to this week:  178
* Completed:  31%
* Number of double shots:  9 (The Police, Genesis * 2, The Beatles * 3, The Innocence Mission, Simon & Garfunkel, Sting)
* Number of quadruple (!) shots:  1 (The Police, including two live ‘Message in a Bottles’ (‘Messages in a Bottle???’)

* Percentage of songs that came up during running that were so totally not helpful in motivating my running:  45% (not bad, but there was another Enya song, I wish that would stop!)

* Number of new to me songs:  1 (Mew ‘Hawaii Dream’)

* Weirdest coincidence:  Phil Collins ‘Long Long Way To Go’

As the essentially useless Dr. Baker once said on Little House on the Prairie, “the mind is a complicated instrument.” Just last week, I tried to recount how Genesis came to be one of my favorite bands and I actually had a little trouble. This Phil Collins song came up this week and I’d kind of forgotten about it. You see, Sting sings on it. I was obsessed with all things Police-related and at this time, there was no new Police music to be had. Phil’s ‘No Jacket Required’ album came out in January of 1985, prior to ‘Invisible Touch.’ Sting and Phil Collins played ‘Long Long Way To Go’ together at Live Aid in July 1985. I watched Live Aid. Now I’m wondering if that is the Genesis connection. I had ‘No Jacket Required,’ and I probably had it because Sting sang on this song. Maybe then I was more receptive to Phil’s 1986 work with Genesis? My memory is like swiss cheese, so who knows?

* Best guilty pleasure double shot of cheese:  Frozen Ghost ‘Echo a Miracle’ followed by Genesis ‘One Eyed Hound’

Even though it is super dated, I can’t help but still like the cheesily anthemic ‘Echo a Miracle.’ “We’re all refugees, seeking sanctuary, from each others’ point of view…” Don’t I know!

‘One Eyed Hound’ is from Genesis’ first album. Phil wasn’t even the drummer yet. They were still school boys. Even though their producer was trying to make them sound like the Bee Gees, for some reason I think this is their most charming Peter Gabriel-era album. I think Tony is singing backing vocals on this song, and that charms me to no end. At the Genesis concert Dave and I went to on their last reunion tour, I called out for them to play ‘One Eyed Hound,’ but unfortunately they didn’t listen to me.

* Song I could’ve sworn I’d heard already:  The Beatles ‘Across the Universe’ (yep, this was the one from Past Masters, and I heard the Let It Be version earlier in the shuffle)

* Song that is entirely too long:  Led Zeppelin ‘The Lemon Song’

Let’s face it, I really only have this song because of the squeeze my lemon part, and it takes way too long to get there and now that I’m an adult, it’s just not that titillating anymore.

* Song that the internet ruined for me:  The Beatles ‘Paperback Writer’

Recently I came across something on the internet saying that the backing vocal harmonies on this song were “Frère Jacques.” I hadn’t ever noticed this before, but now that it’s been pointed out to me, it is all I can hear.

* Some random memories:

Kitchens of Distinction ‘Drive That Fast’

The first outing I ever went on with Dave, before we were dating, was to see Kitchens of Distinction at the Horizontal Boogie Bar in Rochester on September 22, 1992. Dave arranged it and four of us went. I already liked Dave but I had no idea what, if anything, was going on between Dave and this other girl who came with us. Before the show started, she got all pissed that he walked off somewhere (think to the bar) without telling her and was venting to me about how rude he was. I acted appropriately sympathetic, but was smiling on the inside.

James ‘Five-O’

I got the James ‘Laid’ CD right around the time I left for my college study abroad semester in Brussels. Much of the CD was appropriately brooding given how sad I was about being away from Dave for four months. Also appropriate for the burning anger I was experiencing over Dave telling me he needed space right before I left. Man, I guess a person REALLY needs space if they feel the need to tell you that right before you are about to give them four months worth of across the ocean-size space, eh? Or perhaps I was so suffocating that he was concerned 3600 miles would be an insufficient amount of space? I can hold a grudge a long time. Hi Sweetie!!!

Anyway, this song is particularly brooding and brings me back to that time when I was preparing to leave and feeling sick to my stomach about it. “If it lasts forever, hope I’m the first to die.” This period was one of the last times I worried about the lasting forever part. Now I just worry about the dying part.

Sting ‘Fragile’

A special song, in that I have two poignant memories this song brings to mind–one at a very low point, and one happy.

When my Mom finally got up the nerve to leave my Dad, we tried to keep it a secret until our moving day for fear of what he might do if he found out. But somehow he found out the day before the move. He did not react well, and while he had ranted and raved and threatened us in drunken stupors for years, this particular situation did not feel safe. We packed some emergency things and fled to my grandmother’s. I remember being so upset, I kept trying to pack more and more of my things, because I was convinced that Dad would destroy anything I left behind. I was always listening to my walkman during this period to try to drown out what was going on around me. On the car ride over to Gram’s, I still had my music on and ‘Fragile’ was the song that was playing. Unfortunately, I will always associate that song with the fear and sadness of that night.

Shortly after arriving at Rochester for my freshman year of college, I learned that Sting would be playing a concert nearby. It took me awhile to warm up to people and to feel like I belonged at school, but a bunch of people were going to the show and I went too. We were way in back on the lawn and we could hardly hear anything, so towards the end of the concert, some of us tried to sneak closer to the stage. Sting closed with ‘Fragile,’ and my new friend Ron danced with me. I remember feeling the pain of the old memory of the song melting away. Now when I hear the song I am reminded of the negative memory first, and then I remember dancing at the concert. Then I smile.

Feb
19
2011
Gluttony (Cupcake) Wars, or It Wasn’t That Hard to Eat 5 Cupcakes

Hey, have you heard about the cupcake craze that is sweeping the nation?

Oh, you have? Well, I didn’t have a blog when it started, so now you’re just going to have to bear with me as I write about it.

I’m of two minds on this boutique cupcake bakery thing. Part of me realizes how insane it is to stand in a long line to purchase a tiny dessert that is somehow 500 calories and 3 dollars. I can hear my Dad saying “We can make cupcakes at home.”

But then there’s the other part of me, the part that says, “Dad, this is just a small indulgence in a life so full of obligation. And Dad, sure we could make our own cupcakes and save money, but then we’d have a dozen cupcakes sitting around the house when we just want 1 (or 4, but who’s counting). And they’d all be the same flavor. Don’t you want variety, Dad? Don’t be such a “stara baba” (wow, that’s rude Polish for “old lady,” and I had to look up how to spell it and can’t believe that’s right).

Since the cupcake-loving part usually wins this argument, several times a year, I end up standing in a ridiculously long line at Georgetown Cupcake (my reigning favorite since 2008) while the scroogey-Dad side of me engages in self-loathing, muttering “why am I doing this?”

For awhile, my plan was to try as many of the crop of cupcakeries (?!?) in the area as possible. I’m a researcher, I like to be thorough in my gathering of evidence. I’ve tried: Baltimore Cupcake Company, Buzz, Hello Cupcake, Red Velvet Cupcakery, and Lavender Moon Cupcakery, and while they weren’t bad (well, the chocolate frosting at Baltimore Cupcake Co inexplicably tasted like maraschino cherry, which wasn’t good), none of them inspired me to go back for a second try.

In the middle of all of those, we went to Georgetown Cupcake. We waited a few months after they opened before visiting because I figured after a while the hubbub would die down (uh yeah, good call…). Maybe I just got hoodwinked by the popularity and the tony location and the adorably perfect cuteness of the cupcakes and the packaging, but these cupcakes tasted really really good to me. Like worth going back and standing in that line again good…moist cake that wasn’t too delicate and a generous allotment of frosting (I’m a frosting girl). Since then, all of my cupcake reviews use Georgetown as my benchmark. Are they good enough compared with Georgetown to warrant going back there instead of Georgetown? They didn’t even have to be better, given the annoyance of getting to the overcrowded-no parking available Georgetown area and that god damn line, they just had to be good enough. None were.

Then the Washington Post ran a “Cupcake Wars” series and declared Georgetown Cupcake the overwhelming winner. After confirming what I had already suspected, that I’d already found the best, my cupcake tastings came to a halt. Now we occasionally brave the traffic and crowds to partake in Georgetown Cupcake. Tip: if you are ever in Bethesda, the location there is much less crowded. Sometimes my running group meets in Bethesda and I ironically end my run with a stop to buy cupcakes.

I will admit to a lingering curiosity about another bakery in Georgetown–Baked & Wired. I kept hearing great things about it, that it was better than Georgetown Cupcake. Baked & Wired’s average rating on Yelp is higher than Georgetown Cupcake’s too. But I just couldn’t commit to going there. I don’t go to Georgetown all that often, so if I’m bothering to go there, I go to Georgetown Cupcake. Then some new friends did their own tasting and told me that Baked & Wired was better. OK, OK, you’ve twisted my arm people, I’ll try Baked & Wired.

Valentine’s Day weekend, my running group met in Georgetown, so I decided to pick up some cupcakes from Baked & Wired. The bakery was charming, they had a wide variety of different cupcake flavors (along with other baked goods), and there was NO line. Already promising. I bought four cupcakes: two to mirror what Dave and I usually get at Georgetown for comparison purposes (red velvet for me and vanilla cupcake with chocolate frosting for Dave) and two wild-card flavors.

When the cashier handed me the box, I was stunned. It was HEAVY. Even when you buy a dozen at Georgetown, the box is light as a feather. Promising…

I never intended to do more than get some cupcakes at Baked & Wired. I figured we’d eaten enough Georgetown Cupcake that we didn’t need to do a side-by-side tasting. But Georgetown Cupcake was essentially on the way to the car. Maybe the line wouldn’t be long so early in the day? I could just quickly walk by and see how the line was looking. If the line wasn’t long, wouldn’t it make sense, wouldn’t it be the rigorous thing to do to get the red velvet and vanilla chocolate from Georgetown as well? What’s two more cupcakes? I could write about this on my blog! Don’t tell me I’m not committed to my craft.

That’s how I came to be standing in a line outside Georgetown Cupcake about 15 deep holding a Baked & Wired box and wearing only my running gear (it was a bit cold). I carefully placed my running gloves over the “Baked & Wired” sticker and hoped no one would notice. Even though I already had four massive cupcakes, I started wondering what the free secret flavor of the day was. I don’t have a smartphone so I had no way of checking. I asked the cute tourists in front of me if they could check (hey, it got them free cupcakes too!). “Chocolate Chip” they said…hmmm, it’s free, maybe I should get three cupcakes instead of only two? Once I got inside, I realized that one of the monthly flavors was strawberry lava fudge, one of my favorites. OK, I’ll just get four, they are small, one is free, and it’s for the good of the baking sciences (adding “s” to science makes it more “science-y”).

The person who boxed my cupcakes offered me a bag (Baked & Wired didn’t by the way, even though their box of cupcakes weighed 100 pounds) and then nicely offered to put my other box in the bag too. I sheepishly handed her the Baked & Wired box and hoped she wouldn’t say anything (hey, it could’ve been filled with hand pies!).

Her: “Baked & Wired, huh?…the competition, I don’t know if I can put those in our bag.” She said this with a smile.

Me: “Thanks, I’m sure I’ll like yours better.”

But after seeing (and carrying!) Baked & Wired’s cupcakes, I wasn’t so sure. I was really starting to think I’d like the Baked & Wired better and quite frankly, I wanted to like the Baked & Wired better (no line!, larger!, no ridiculous clearly dramatized “reality” show!).

I immediately fell in love with the appearance of the Baked & Wired cupcakes and was impressed by their size. I’m never satisfied with one Georgetown Cupcake, they are way the hell too small. Here are some pictures of the cupcakes. Note that I somehow ended up with 5 Baked & Wired cupcakes, even though I had only ordered 4. I only paid for 4, so each bakery ended up giving me one for free, although only Georgetown did it intentionally!


Here are some numbers (importance of data, blah, blah, blah, just eat the cupcakes already).

COST (per cupcake, ignoring free cupcakes):
Baked & Wired: $3.85
Georgetown Cupcake:  $~3.03

WEIGHT
Baked & Wired:  about 5 oz.
Georgetown Cupcake:  about 3.5 oz.

So as the Washington Post pointed out, Baked & Wired is cheaper by weight.

Comparable flavors (head to head)

The proof was in the eating. Dave is pickier about cupcakes in that he doesn’t care for many different flavors. He loves Georgetown’s vanilla & chocolate, which is their vanilla cupcake with stiff (heh, heh) chocolate frosting. Strangely enough, this is one of only two cupcake flavors I’ve tried there and haven’t liked. I like fluffy, light, and creamy frosting. The chocolate is just too much and it’s dense. But Dave loves it. Every time he tries another flavor, I ask him what he thinks and he says “It’s OK, but not as good as the vanilla & chocolate.” Dave had this to say about the Baked & Wired version (vanilla with chocolate satin frosting): “pretty fucking tasty.” When I pressed him to compare the two bakeries, he said he would be pretty hard pressed to pick which was better. So that was pretty high praise given how much he loves the Georgetown version.

As for my head to head flavor (red velvet), I was disappointed in Baked & Wired. The cake part wasn’t dry per se, but it didn’t really taste like anything. So the fact that there was so much cake and relatively little frosting was not good. It was also hard to eat, I couldn’t get a bite of the whole thing, I had to break part of the bottom off first. The frosting was good, there was a nice balance between the taste of cream cheese and sweetness. But there wasn’t enough of it. Oh, and you wouldn’t think the three little red dot sprinkles would be worth writing about one way or another, but they tasted noticeably bad, like cough medicine. Overall, it wasn’t a bad cupcake, but I didn’t really want to finish it, which is a bad sign when one of my main complaints about my favorite cupcakes is how small they are.

I ate the Georgetown red velvet right after even though I wasn’t that jazzed to eat more cupcake and while I definitely liked it better than Baked & Wired, I noticed that the cake part of the Georgetown red velvet didn’t taste like much either. It’s the frosting that wins it–it’s so fluffy and sweet and there’s enough of it to mask the fact that the cake isn’t flavorful. The texture of the Georgetown cake was better as well. It actually felt velvety, whereas the Baked & Wired was more dense and like regular cake.

Random flavors (no head to head)

In retrospect, I realized that Baked & Wired’s Razmanian Devil (lemon cake with raspberry filling and lemon buttercream frosting) wasn’t so much of a wild card flavor. Georgetown Cupcake has a lemon berry flavor that I’ve had before and remember quite vividly HATING (this flavor and Dave’s favorite flavor–the frosting really–are the only flavors I’ve had there that I’ve disliked). I actually wondered if I’d gotten a bad cupcake that day because the lemon berry (I think it was the electric pink frosting) tasted like poison. So while I didn’t really love the Baked & Wired lemon raspberry, it kicked the shit out of Georgetown’s because it didn’t taste like they were trying to kill me. The Baked & Wired Razmanian Devil tasted like a cross between the lemon pound cake at Starbucks and a jelly donut. Not a bad combination, but I don’t think I’d get it again.

I had a bite of Dave’s wild card flavor from Baked & Wired (Texas sheetcake) and from that one bite thought it might have been the best of the ones I got there. I would prefer a little less cinnamon, but the cake was moist and the frosting was sweet and not too overpoweringly chocolaty. Dave gave his usual assessment of any new cupcake flavor (“OK, but not as good as the vanilla & chocolate”). So he preferred his wild card flavor from Georgetown, which was the free secret flavor of the day (chocolate chip). It’s essentially the same thing as his favorite cupcake only with chocolate chips baked in.

My wild card flavor from Georgetown Cupcake was strawberry lava fudge. I adore their lava fudge cupcakes. My favorite is the one with peanut butter frosting, but the strawberry isn’t far off. And that’s all I’m going to say about that one because if I discuss how they are packed with fudge, I’m going to go all Beavis and Butthead on you.

Even though I was kind of disappointed in Baked & Wired, I can see going back to try some different flavors before making up my mind. Unfortunately, the madness doesn’t stop there as there are still more cupcake options. Sprinkles is opening a DC location soon. Then there’s Bake Shop in Clarendon yet to try, as well as a cupcake truck that sounds interesting (and stops near my office weekly…).

UPDATED 2/22 to say that cupcakes are a sickness. Dave and I went to the zoo yesterday since we both had the day off. Georgetown is on the way home from the zoo, so of course it made sense to get more cupcakes. The line at Georgetown Cupcake was probably 40 deep out the door and it was raining. So we went to Baked & Wired. Their strawberry cupcake is absolutely lovely. The cake was extremely moist and flavorful. The frosting was sweet and pink and perfect. So so good. So score one for Baked & Wired.

Feb
14
2011
Playlist Week 5: You’ve Eliminated Any Interruptions Or Distractions

I’m challenging myself to get through a whole shuffle of my music collection on my iPod without skipping. Then I write about what I heard each week.

Hey, guess what? I listened to my iPod this week. And I didn’t skip songs. And this isn’t getting old at all! Sigh.

The title of this post comes from Meat Beat Manifesto’s ‘Pot Sounds’ and I wish that the line had been true this week, as I was a walking distraction every day. “Mindstream’ also came up this week. Both of these songs are from a tape (I know!) that fueled many a make-out session in college. “Peace…Love”

This week I realized that I don’t have any Steppenwolf on my iPod and that made me sad. Must rectify that soon.

Here is the weekly summary:

* Songs listened to this week:  116
* Completed:  24%
* Number of double shots:  4 (The police * 4 (3 live, too many bootlegs!), The Beatles

* Percentage of songs that came up during running that were so totally not helpful in motivating my running:  20% (I only ran on the treadmill once this week, but the songs that came up that day were pretty good).

Songs of note:

Ween’s ‘Flies on My Dick’ came up this week and I can’t say I would have listened to it if not for the challenge. Interestingly, what I couldn’t get out of my head the whole time was how much one of the two voices sounded like Eric the Midget from the Howard Stern show. I’ll never be able to listen to this song the same way again.

Even though I had no desire to see the movie and in fact, didn’t see it in theaters, then DVR’ed it and still didn’t watch it (it was one of the casualties of a full DVR during this year’s Australian Open), I got caught up in the pre-”Snakes on a Plane” fever. I remember sending people phone messages from Samuel L. Jackson in character. ‘Fuck You Snakes’ came up this week and it is so great that I left no stone unturned trying to figure out where I had gotten it so that I could share it. Don’t say I’m not committed to my blogging craft. Jeremy Tague, I don’t know who you are, but thank you for ‘Fuck You Snakes.’

Body Count/Ice-T ‘Body Count’ As a long time fan of Law and Order Special Victims Unit, I sometimes forget about Ice-T’s Body Count. This gem of a song was on the same Sire Records compilation as Merlin’s ‘Feel the Fury.’  “Don’t you hear the guns, you stupid, dumb, dick suckin’, bum politicians?”

* Number of new to me songs:  1 (Mew ‘Introducing Palace Players’)

* Number of songs that I’m so totally deleting:  1

Animal Logic ‘Another Place’ Never liked this song, would even fast forward it in my cassette tape days. Jackson Browne sings on this, which does nothing for me.

* Most wanted to skip:  Hooverphonic ‘Neon (Hidden Track)’ would prefer that it stay hidden. Also, did you know I had ‘Highwayman’ by Johnny Cash et al on my iPod? I’m not sure I did! I groaned audibly when it came on. Might have gone a little overboard with the Johnny Cash CD ripping in my post “Walk the Line” movie enthusiasm. Once I got over my initial dread, the song actually grew on me. But I don’t know that it will live through the planned post-shuffle challenge purging of the iPod.

* Song I’ll be saddest not to hear again until this is over:  The Ocean Blue ‘Sublime’ This song is one of the main reasons I bothered to dig up my missing Ocean Blue CDs and rip them after week 1 of the shuffle challenge. Yes, hearing this song was so sublime.

* Weirdest coincidence:  Deerhoof ‘Satan‘ My nickname from college is Satan, so Dave put this on a mix for me. I call this song the meow song, as it sounds to me like the singer is saying meow over and over. Dave loves Deerhoof and went to see them in concert on Monday night. I couldn’t make myself go with him. I don’t like them that much. I thought it was weird that this song came up the next day.

* Song that made me smile the most:  Ween’s ‘The Stallion, Pt. 2′ (and oh yes, there are parts 1 and 3 as well) actually had me fighting off laughter on my evening commute one night. People must have thought I was crazy. But no, “I am the Stallion…man.” I’m not sure why it took them so long to feel they’d made their point…you know, about being the Stallion…man.

* Only Komeda song I like:  Last week I heard what I mistakenly thought was the only Komeda song I like. This week the other Komeda song I like came up. Here is ‘Binario’.

* Police song with cursing: ‘Someone To Talk To’ “Now that she’s gone I know she was great, but I fucked it up and now it’s too late.” I put this song on the “Fuck Mix” tape I made years ago, filled with great songs that include the word fuck.

* Several random memories this week:  The Wedding Present ‘Brassneck’ and Simon & Garfunkel ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’

Actually, most of the songs that come up make me think of something related to when I first heard it or when I listened to it most frequently. Strong associations abound in my music collection. Just trying to pull out a few key songs each week to keep it simple.

The Wedding Present’s Bizarro was the first tape that Dave ever lent me, in the very early stage of our relationship. The excitement I felt to be sharing in something he really liked when I liked him so much allowed me to suffer through, but in all honesty, I didn’t like the music much. Just sounded like noise to me. I’m a singing snob and I didn’t find the singing all that skillful. And there was that little matter of all the songs sounding the same. There are even two versions (which I couldn’t distinguish from each other) of Brassneck on the album! I teased Dave about them only having one song (Brassneck) all the time. Later, I came to find out that I wasn’t the only one who thought that. The band themselves used “all the songs sound the same” as a tag line and put it on swag they were selling. Over the years, I’ve come to appreciate the Wedding Present more. We saw them play Bizarro in its entirety (and some bonus songs beforehand too) last year and it was a great show. I’d love to have a bootleg of that show, since it sounded better than the CD sounds.

A friend of mine from high school loved the song Bridge Over Troubled Water. She asked me to tape it for her and I don’t remember if she suggested this or if I was being a smart ass, but I made her a tape filled up with nothing but this song over and over. I still have trouble listening to this song because I overdid it so much back then. A biography of Simon & Garfunkel that I read during college includes a sad story about this song as it related to the breakdown of their partnership and friendship. A post that I’ve been working on and has been sitting saved in draft status for months mentions this story and relays my own creative partnership story, but I just can’t seem to tie the pieces together and finish the post in a way that satisfies me. Plus, the other half of my creative partnership seems to have subscribed to this blog recently (hi Flash!) and that ratchets up the pressure to make the post something worth reading.

* Genesis song that seems to be the best segue so far for explaining my thoughts about the group:  ‘The Cinema Show’

The original version from Selling England By the Pound came up this week. This song was relatively easy to listen to, because I’ve heard Phil Collins singing it live. I taped a live version off the radio and listened to it over and over again while doing my Youth for Understanding summer in the Netherlands in 1989. So I can handle the original version, but I prefer the live version with Phil singing (here’s part of it, can’t find the full thing in one video).

I’m relatively young to be a Genesis fan, given that they formed several years before I was even born. As a teeny bopper, I suppose I should have been taken with New Kids on the Block or some such. But I fell hard for the Police (as is evident in my previous playlist posts) and their absence after about 1984 made me sad. What little Genesis I knew to that point (stuff like ‘No Reply At All’ and ‘That’s All’) I thought was pleasant enough. When the album ‘Invisible Touch’ was released, I was in 8th grade. I now know that die-hard fans of the classic Genesis line up (like Dave) find this album insufferable, but I was 13 years old and my family had fairly recently hooked up cable. Say what you will, but the video for ‘Invisible Touch’ charmed the socks off me. The song is super catchy, better than a lot of the shit being released at the time, and the band seemed fun and self-deprecating. Most importantly, Tony Banks, the keyboard player, was adorable and I developed quite a crush on him.

Almost as if it were for the express purpose of filling me in on the nearly two decades worth of back catalog I had missed by being so ridiculously young, MTV became Genesis central. Their documentary “Genesis: From the Beginning” and their behind the scenes of the Invisible Touch tour (I still have both taped on VHS) both introduced me to the fact that Genesis had existed long before I had and cemented my love of the band, their music, and particularly Tony. During one of the interviews, Tony’s talking about a song called ‘The Brazilian’ and how it’s closer to the kinds of music on his solo albums (during which time I remember thinking, “you have solo albums?!?”). He cheekily says “So if you like the Brazilian, go buy my solo albums,” and then with a huge grin laughingly says “which no one does!” Oh my God, so adorable.

Like I had done with the Police a few years earlier, I started excitedly procuring Genesis’ catalog going backwards from Invisible Touch. My older brother already had some of their more recent stuff, and I devoured and loved everything I heard. I think I had to acquire everything prior to Abacab. Everything was still cassette tape, but then my brother used his Taco Bell money to buy a fancy new stereo system (which I think he still has!) for his room and he let me use it if he wasn’t around. The first CD I ever owned (and the last until I finally got my own CD player in college) was the live double album ‘Seconds Out.’ After going back through the Genesis catalog and liking everything through ‘A Trick of the Tail,’ I finally hit the proverbial (garden, ha!) wall. I skipped ‘The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.’ Not sure why, I think it was just too frightening to start the non-Phil Collins as leader singer era with a double album. I never did buy it. Dave had it and I eventually ripped his copy of it (which I still haven’t listened to start to finish). I did get ‘Selling England by the Pound’, ‘Foxtrot’, ‘Nursery Cryme’, and ‘Trespass’ on tape. However, my mind was just not open to Genesis with Peter Gabriel singing. Strange really, because I have no problem with Peter Gabriel. I like a lot of his solo music. And I love Genesis. I just don’t like them together. The songs don’t seem to be the problem either since I like the songs of that era that I’ve heard Phil sing. Apparently a music journalist said after Phil took over singing duties that Phil sounded more like Peter Gabriel than Peter Gabriel did. I think I know what he meant.

Feb
12
2011
A Lack of Critical Thinking or Doofy Husbands*

My breakfast order at Panera doesn’t vary much–it’s either a pumpkin muffin or a cinnamon crunch bagel with honey walnut cream cheese. Sometimes, if I’m feeling wild and crazy, I’ll throw in a chai too. Since Dave had to go through the mall today on his way home, he sweetly called me to see if I wanted anything. Since I’d run that morning and still hadn’t eaten, I asked for a cinnamon crunch bagel and honey walnut cream cheese (so I could promptly undo any good the running did).

How much of that sweetness eroded when I found that Dave hadn’t actually procured the cream cheese because I “didn’t ask for it?” Quite a bit when you consider that he correctly answered the following question: “How many times have I eaten a cinnamon crunch bagel from Panera without honey walnut cream cheese?”

0.0

Since I only got slightly less annoyed during my unexpected 20 minute cream cheese gathering excursion, I decided to purge myself here. I feel better now.

*Here is Sarah Haskins’ take on the subject of doofy husbands. Of the three things that we “need husbands to do for us,” Dave is not so much on the lawn care and is certainly not breeding children (I hope). But he drops me off at the door when it is super cold or raining, he carries things that are heavy, and he brought homemade hot chocolate in a thermos for me to have after my first 5K run in the cold and drizzle of a dreary March day. Happy Valentine’s Day, Love!

Feb
6
2011
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies?

I’ve never been fully satisfied with any chocolate chip cookie recipe I’ve ever tried. My search for a perfect homemade chocolate chip cookie has been going on for years. My mother-in-law made excellent chocolate chip cookies. I remember fondly the care packages she sent to Dave filled with these thick, chewy, beautiful cookies, both because I never received care packages myself (I was so deprived!) and because her cookies were so good. I wonder if she knew that the reason I had tried them is because I stayed in Dave’s room a lot of the time (scandalous!)? When I asked her for the recipe, she said she used the Nestle Toll House recipe on the back of bags of Nestle morsels. However, when I tried that recipe, it did not yield her cookies. I tried probing to see if she did anything special that she wasn’t spilling and she insisted she just followed the recipe.

Since then I’ve done some research and have tried various other recipes. While I’m not going to say that the cookies I made were bad (most chocolate chip cookies are pretty tasty, but we’re talking about finding “the one” here), the recipes I tried weren’t yielding what I wanted, a rich and chewy cookie. It’s also important to me that the cookies have some heft to them, that they don’t spread out and get too thin.

One recipe that seemed very promising was Alton Brown’s “The Chewy.” While the chewy was good, it wasn’t my perfect cookie. While people seem to agree that melted butter is a key to chewy cookies, these cookies came out very greasy to the touch. They were also flatter than I wanted.

The next really promising recipe came from David Leite’s 2008 NY Times article. I was very excited about this recipe. Leite was essentially doing the same thing I was doing, searching for the perfect chocolate chip cookie, but he had access to all kinds of resources (well-known and accomplished bakers) I didn’t have. The fact that he published a recipe must have meant he’d found the perfect cookie, right? Well, they weren’t the perfect cookies for me. These cookies were good right out of the oven, but were nothing special at all once they had cooled. By the next day, they were dry and lacking in flavor. They actually weren’t even worth the calories (looking back on the recipe in my disappointment, I realized that Leite himself had essentially said as much in the recipe–”eat warm”). The cookies were better if you reheated them a bit, but I didn’t feel that they were worth making again. I hadn’t found the perfect chocolate chip cookie.

It has been a couple of years since I tried making chocolate chip cookies. Then two weekends ago we saw an America’s Test Kitchen episode with the rather pompously named “Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies.” A lot of what I had already learned matched their recipe, with a few new twists. It seemed worth a try. Four things caused me some concern:

1.  the melted butter would yield greasy cookies (a la the chewy),

2.  browning the butter would be a pain and would make the cookies taste burnt (on the show they were so busy discussing the depth of flavor browned butter adds that I think they weren’t paying enough attention because all I was seeing was burnt butter…I actually think they made a mistake on the show, because the picture on their website doesn’t show butter that dark)

3. the recommended chocolate chip wouldn’t appeal to my tastes

4.  the enormous size/ridiculously low yield

I don’t care how big a cookie is, a yield of 16 cookies isn’t worth my time. Also, their insistence on having to make monstrously-sized cookies in order to obtain that elusive chewiness seemed like a cop-out to me. It implied to me that they had not actually perfected a technique that yields chewy cookies. If they had a perfect chewy cookie technique, why couldn’t you use that technique to make normal sized cookies that would be chewy?

Last weekend, I made these cookies. I solved concerns 3 and 4 by doubling the recipe. Doubling the recipe meant I’d get a non-laughable yield and it meant I could use their recommended chocolate chips in half of the dough and good old Nestle Toll House morsels in the other half (Just like the Test Kitchen, I’m a little bit of a chocolate snob too, but I started wondering if the missing link in duplicating my mother-in-law’s cookies was actually the chip. I usually use fancier chocolate chips and I’m sure she just used Nestle-so that seemed worth a try). So there would be a chocolate chip competition thrown in too.

The first step was the dreaded browning of the butter. I was very worried that their instructions would yield burnt, unusable butter but as it turned out I had trouble getting any color on the butter whatsoever. Even though Dave is a fabulous chef, we don’t actually have the pan they suggest for this task (10 inch skillet that is not dark or nonstick), so I ended up having to use a saucepan. The saucepan provided less surface area for cooking. That, plus having double the amount of butter (since I was doubling the recipe), seemed to stop the butter from browning. After going a couple of minutes over their maximum suggested time for the browning, I freaked out and just stopped because I had this vague recollection from watching the show that they had said  the reason they stir a few more tablespoons of solid butter into the stuff that has been melted is due to evaporation during the melting. I worried that I wasn’t going to have the right amount of butter if I kept it on the heat any longer. So check out this flavorful browned butter…

Other than that, everything went fine. I thought the added steps of waiting for the sugar to dissolve might be annoying, but it didn’t take long and seemed necessary (the batter certainly didn’t look ready for the dry ingredients after the first whisk). The next two pictures are of the result of the first whisk of butter and sugar and then what the mixture looked like right before adding the dry ingredients.

I almost forgot to split the finished dough in half to mix different chocolate chips in, but remembered just in time. We had the right size scoop (3 tablespoon) so portioning the dough was super easy. I ended up making the appropriate number of what I started calling “Dave’s cookies,” but only got 15 of “my cookies.” Dave’s cookies had the dark Ghirardelli chips mixed in and mine had the Nestle morsels. The next two pictures are a batch of my cookies waiting to go into the oven and a cute singleton of Dave’s dough. I started calling the cookies “mine” versus “Dave’s” because I know Dave likes dark chocolate and I generally don’t and I confirmed that through sampling some chips during the whisking and waiting steps. I really wasn’t wild about the dark chips, while the Nestle just tasted like normal chocolate chips to me.

I baked each sheet of cookies for about 11 minutes, which seemed perfect. I also got them the hell off the cookie sheets to cool immediately because I didn’t want them to continue baking. Here is a batch baking in the oven and what they looked like after I moved them to the cooking racks.


So what was the verdict?

I ate one of my cookies when they were still pretty warm. It tasted good, but was pretty greasy (like the chewy). A few hours later I had another and it was just lovely. The butter must have solidified or reabsorbed or something because they weren’t greasy any longer. I was saying to Dave that they reminded me of something when it hit me–his Mom’s cookies! Strange, because I know she didn’t melt her butter or use dark brown sugar or any of these other recipe changes. But they are the closest thing I’ve found to her cookies. Maybe the size mattered; my memory of her cookies is that they were pretty large. I froze most of the cookies the first night. We ate some of what I hadn’t frozen the next night and they were still very good at room temperature. The next night they were starting to get a little dry but were still good. Since then, we have reheated a couple from frozen and they are about as good as freshly baked that way (it is key to use a low power level on the microwave otherwise the cookie regains that fresh out of the oven greasy quality, you want the cookie thawed and maybe a little warm, but not hot).

What about the chip test?

Dave strongly preferred the Ghirardelli dark chips. While I liked the dark chips better in the finished product than when I tried them raw, I strongly preferred the Nestle. I’m sure there are better chips than Nestle, but I just don’t care for dark chocolate. I prefer semi-sweet or even milk chocolate. After deciding for myself, I checked the Test Kitchen’s website and read their chocolate chip reviews. I could tell just from the first line of their review of the “highly recommended” Ghirardelli that they are not for me:  “Distinct “wine,” “fruit,” and “smoke” flavors made this “adult chocolate” a clear winner.” The Test Kitchen tasters hated the Nestle chips and rated them as “not recommended.” They noted the high sugar content and said they were “unpleasantly sweet.” I guess this is just further confirmation that I have the palate of a 5-year old, because a.) I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted anything “unpleasantly” sweet; sweet is an inherently pleasant flavor to me and b.) if having an “adult” palate means I have to want my chocolate to taste like wine, fruit, and smoke (I mean, smoke…really?), I’ll just stick to being childlike.

But in reading their reviews of other chips, I think the Hershey’s semi-sweet might be a good option for me to try next time. While the description doesn’t make it sound like the tasters liked them, they did rate them as “recommended.” Their biggest concerns were that they were “too sweet” and had “a distinct “milky” flavor…more similar to milk chocolate than semisweet chocolate.” But the tasters thought they had “good cocoa flavor in cookies.” Those chips totally sound like a good fit for me.

Summary: I wanted to shove my face in the dough the whole time I was making these cookies. Writing this post and looking at these pictures again makes me want to go get another cookie out of the freezer. Not sure that they are “perfect,” but they are the closest I’ve found so far. I will totally make these cookies again. Next time, I think I’ll use Hershey’s chips in my batch and that I will brown the butter for the two batches separately to try to get the browning the recipe calls for.

“Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies” From Cook’s Illustrated.

Makes 16 cookies.

Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned. Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. This recipe works with light brown sugar, but the cookies will be less full-flavored.

Ingredients
1 3/4  cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2     teaspoon baking soda
14       tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2     cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4    cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces) (see note)
1         teaspoon table salt
2        teaspoons vanilla extract
1        large egg
1        large egg yolk
1 1/4  cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (they recommend Ghirardelli 60% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate Chips)
3/4     cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

Instructions

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

LOGY EXPRESS NOTE: I slid the cookies, parchment and all, off the cookie sheets onto cooling racks immediately on taking them out of the oven, because I didn’t want them to keep baking and because I only have two appropriately sized cookie sheets and needed to reuse each for the second batch of dough. After a few minutes, they were set enough to GENTLY slide them off of the parchment if you want to reuse your parchment.

Feb
5
2011
Playlist Week 4: Fire In The Disco, Fire In The Taco Bell

I’m challenging myself to get through a whole shuffle of my music collection on my iPod without skipping. Then I write about what I heard each week.

Again a week with no posts between the shuffle entries. I’m writing posts in my head all the time. I probably have a dozen at least that are mostly formed but not typed out. Getting the thoughts from my brain to WordPress seems to be an issue for me. There’s all this ‘cloud computing’ now that is so awesome (love you, Dropbox!) yet totally incomprehensible to me. Maybe someone could get on enhancing cloud computing by linking directly to my brain so my posts could be published as soon as I’m done thinking about them. Two real (like typed out and shit) posts are just in need of some Tracy-style (we’ll say meticulous because that seems more positive than anal) editing. Until those are done, here’s another shuffle summary.

This week I became convinced (during the song ‘Lover (Cantata)’) that Lords of Acid was being played well over proportion given the number of songs of theirs on my iPod. Being an evidence-based kind of girl, I gathered the relevant data and I was about 17 percent through the shuffle at the point of ‘Lover (Cantata),’ while that song represented song 10 out of the 34 Lords of Acid songs in the shuffle (29 percent). So yes, a little over-represented to this point, but not wildly. I think their songs are just very, uh, noticeable.  And holy shit, I still have 24 songs left.

The title of the post this week comes from:  Electric Six ‘Danger! High Voltage’  My favorite song of theirs is ‘Gay Bar,’ but this one’s a close second, in large part due to the inclusion of the Taco Bell line. Just so ridiculous.

* Songs listened to this week:  127
* Completed:  20%
* Number of double shots:  4

The Police * 2 (the horrible De Do Do Do remake, see below, was followed by live ‘Deathwish,’ which kind of made up for it), Sting, Ween (toyed with using “Give me that Z-o-l-o-f-t, no longer pissed, you don’t bother me” as this week’s title, but that seemed too long)

* Percentage of songs that came up during running that were so totally not helpful in motivating my running:  55% (an improvement!)

While a much better percentage than last week overall, one of my workouts was almost completely dominated by Genesis’ 16 minute ‘It/Watcher of the Skies’ medley from ‘Three Sides Live.’ No problem with these songs or this particular version, but I like more variety while running. That same workout included The Beatles ‘Across the Universe,’ which was an interesting choice. I don’t find meditation songs to be very effective exercise music.

* Number of new to me songs:  possibly as many as 4

Mew ‘Silas the Magic Car’ (a little boring), Mew ‘Beach’ (don’t remember my impression of this one), Deerhoof ‘Milk Man’ (Dave loves them and insists on putting them on mixes for me, I don’t think I’ve ever gotten through this one before, although it’s not totally new to me), Ladytron ‘Black Cat’ (same explanation as the Deerhoof)

* Number of songs that I’m so totally deleting:  possibly 3

Stereolab ‘Anonymous Collective’ (very droning with singing that sounds a little off) and Dada ‘Star You Are’ (time to accept that I only like one song off their ‘El Subliminoso’ CD and this ain’t it), October Project ‘Something More Than This’ (this song’s OK, if it were 3 minutes I’d probably let it live, but it’s pushing 6 minutes and it’s just not going to hold my attention for that long when I’m not doing this challenge)

* Most wanted to skip: see above as well as Portishead ‘Wandering Star’

I really liked this CD when it came out and I’m surprised at how little patience I have for their songs now. Not ready to delete, but hmm….

* Song I’ll be saddest not to hear again until this is over: The Police ‘Synchronicity I’

Luckily I have several bootlegs and ‘Off the Record’ type radio downloads that hopefully mean this song will be sprinkled throughout the shuffle, but this was the original release. I hesitate to commit to this, but I think this is my favorite Police song. I’m always excited to hear this song. Also, given my line of work, the line “causally connectable” always cracks me up too. I defy you to tell me another popular song that uses the word “causal” or a variant of it. The picture that comes on at about the 0:10 mark in the linked video is the quintessential Police photo for me. It’s the one that makes my heart tense up in the same way as when I hear their music. This was my favorite band in my formative years, and I don’t think there’s any getting over that. But I still love their music just as much now as I did then.

* Song that made me dance around during the dog walk: The Police ‘Walking on the Moon’ live Buffalo Synchronicity Tour (whenever Sting says Buffalo in this bootleg I get all giddy, this is the show I could have seen…let’s face it though, if Mom had actually let me go to this show at 10 years old, I would totally have shit my pants, I know that now from listening to the bootleg. They were that good. Having to wait until they were old and slow, or at least Sting was old and slow, was good for me. I’m not sure I would’ve lived through the excitement of seeing them at their peak.)

* Worst remake:  Before I make you sick (if I haven’t already) with my outpouring of love for the Police, I thought I’d throw in a complaint to let you know that I can be objective about them. Their remake of ‘De Do Do Do De Da Da Da’ from 1986 is fucked up bad. I have no idea what they (read Sting) were thinking with that bullshit version. I guess they weren’t as happy with the ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’ album as their other albums. I don’t know, it sounds pretty good to me.

* Weirdest coincidence:  I mentioned a memory sparked by a Lords of Acid song last week and then one of the first songs this week was the actual Lords of Acid song I had been thinking of (‘Do What You Wanna Do’). No idea how I managed to screw that up, but it was nice I got to correct myself so quickly.

* Song I could’ve sworn I’d heard already:  The Police ‘In the Studio’ radio show–this is because I actually did hear some of the same songs and interview snippets before. I apparently downloaded the ‘Zenyatta Mondatta’ AND the joint ‘Zenyatta/’Ghost in the Machine’ shows). Lots of Police this week. I also actually did hear Paul McCartney’s ‘Back Seat of My Car’ a second time this week, I apparently ripped it twice (off ‘Ram’ and the Wings hits CD). Look at me being PRESENT (my favorite actor speak from “Inside the Actors Studio’) and attention-paying this week!

* Only Komeda song I like: ‘Flabbergast’

This song was on a CD sampler my brother got me for Christmas years ago and I really like it and so did Dave. Unfortunately for me, Dave bought several of their albums and decided he really like them generally and I just did not. Shit, I just lied, there’s another song of theirs I like too. When that one comes up, I’ll try to remember to link to it too. The song doesn’t start in the linked video until about 2:20 (they were having technical difficulties).

* Song of someone I sort of know:  The Grand Candy ‘I Need Liftoff! (Tight Middle Mix)’

This is Dave’s guitar teacher’s song. Go check them out.

* Guilty Pleasure: PM ‘Say it Again’ (out of print but you can hear a snippet at the artist’s website, click on audio discography and select PM)

Growing up, sometimes I could tune in a Canadian radio station and that’s how I got introduced to Frozen Ghost and to PM. Their song ‘Piece of Paradise’ was a moderate hit I think. Vanessa Williams also apparently remade one of their other songs ‘Moonlight Over Paris,’ but I’ve never heard it. This album is out of print and I only had it on tape. I recently found the CD for sale on Amazon Marketplace and I was so happy. I realize that the music is pretty cheesy (Dave was certainly horrified by it when I introduced it), but I like it anyway. Most of the songs are ridiculously catchy and if you like to sing like I do, the songs are very fun to sing.  Speaking of singing, I have this aversion to Sheryl Crow that I’m not going to get into now, but suffice it to say I really dislike her (oh fuck it, if you want to know the full explanation of my distaste, go here). I’ll probably spout off more when one of my favorite Kevin Gilbert songs comes up. Anyway, at the time I got this PM tape, I had no idea who Sheryl Crow was (she wasn’t famous yet). Years later I rediscovered the PM tape during a move and noticed in the liner notes that Sheryl Crow was one of the back up singers. One of my dreams is to get to meet her someday so I can say “I loved your work with PM.”

* Song that Dave practiced on Guitar Hero so much I thought I might kill him:  Lush ‘De-Luxe’

Before taking up real guitar, Dave played Guitar Hero. Dave played this song over and over and over again trying to get it right. When this song came up this week I realized I still don’t want to hear it ever again. I’m good on this one, have totally heard it enough to last my whole life.

* Most random memory: The Police ‘Driven to Tears’

A live version of this song came up this week and reminded me about Mark Goodman’s stupidity during MTV’s coverage of Live Aid. After Sting played ‘Driven to Tears,’ Goodman said that Sting had “changed the words” for the event, referring to the line “too many cameras and not enough food.” Um, those were always the words. I could never figure out what he was smoking…did he think the line was too many cameras and not enough film?

* Genesis song with cursing:  ‘Pigeons’

Just a fun bonus this week. This song is included on one of their box sets and I wasn’t super familiar with it, so I was shocked to hear Phil saying shit in the first line. I can’t think of any other Genesis songs with curse words. Let me know if I’m missing any.

* Non-musical selection:  Bill Cosby ‘Brain Damage’

“And the reason why we have five children is because we do not want six.”