Saturday, November 21, 2009

It Begins

The holiday season approaches, which means my mad dash to make lots of handmade things also grows near. Last night, my pal AW hosted a craft night, and I worked on knitting washclothes and making the cutest ornament ever. Here, let me show them to you:
The half-eaten gingerbread man! Deliciously morbid, and morbidly cute!

Now, the not so exciting washcloths (to be paired with nice soaps for a good gift):

Really, though, the whole post was to show you the cuteness of my gingerbread man. I'm going to make like 17 more of them--so very cute!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Cupcake Review

I dressed up as a Cupcake Queen (or fairy, depending on how you look at my costume) for Halloween this year. The cupcakes in the photo are ones that I made especially for Halloween--Caramel Apple Cupcakes.

Imagine: an apple cupcake, frosted with a caramel cream cheese icing, and topped with a mini caramel apple (with tiny toothpick sticking out of it). They were brilliant and tasted really, really good. Next year I might take a stab at making my own caramel or putting caramel in the middle of the cupcakes.

My point is, of course, that I make really tasty cupcakes (I promise I have testimonies to back me up!). And there aren't really tasty cupcakes to be found commercially in Fayetteville. So when I heard that Bliss Cupcake Cafe was opening in our small town, I got excited. Cupcake shops are something that one usually finds in places like New York City or Washington D.C.

Bliss opened yesterday afternoon; since I was at work, I did not get to experience it directly, so I will only be giving a partial review based on the cupcake that was brought to me. (I plan to go experience for myself and post another review in a week or two.) I got the Pumpkin Maple cupcake: a pumpkin cupcake topped with a maple buttercream and a few toasted pecans. Lance got the Cinnamon Toast, and JH got the Chocolate Marshmallow. They told me that it was a long wait because it was busy, but I'll blame that on opening day problems--I'm sure they'll get it figured out.

Lance tells me that both the Cinnamon Toast and Chocolate Marshmallow were a bit crumbly on the cake--he wanted a moister, denser cupcake. Some folks like the crumby cake, but I prefer a tender, moister crumb myself. The marshmallow topping was really, really good, but the chocolate cake itself was fairly standard. The cupcakes were a bit small but definitely fresh.

My own cupcake--the Pumpkin Maple--was pretty tasty, but while I was eating it, I kept thinking of how my own cupcake would be better. I've made pumpkin cupcakes before, and the ones I've made are full of flavor while still being moist and a little more substantial. The cake was very moist and tender and light as a cloud--but I felt it could have offered more on the flavor end. It disappeared too quickly and didn't encourage careful, contemplative bites. I've made pumpkin cupcakes before, and the ones I've made are full of flavor while still being moist and a little more substantial. I like a cupcake that you can savor, and the cake was too airy and not flavorful enough to do that.

The maple frosting was good in concept--but I'm not a huge fan of buttercream (all sweet, not much flavor); I think a maple cream cheese frosting would have actually been better on this particular cupcake. Since the cake itself was so airy and insubstantial, a heavier and creamier frosting would have balanced it out. The pecans on top was a nice touch, though cinnamon candied pecans would have taken it up to the next notch. My overall impression of this cupcake was that the flavor was too subtle, the sweet was the major note, and it disappeared far too quickly.

Lance, JH, and I think that Bliss definitely has some potential--but they need to work out their kinks. Apparently some of the cupcakes overflowed their cups a bit or were flat--signs that the bakers didn't vary how much they filled the cups based on which recipe there were using. If we're paying roughly $3 for a cupcake, we want something special. And I want something that would inspire me to play around in my own kitchen. I look to the Cupcake Bakeshop blog for inspiration for the kinds of cupcakes I would pay good money for (I'd probably pay $4 or more for one of hers!), and I just don't know if Bliss is at that level. I will, of course, be trying again in a week or so after some of the opening kinks have (hopefully) been worked out.

Any readers try out Bliss Cupcakes? What are your thoughts?

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Winning Day

At the beginning of November, I ran a race--the Veterans Memorial 5k. It was fairly close to the beginning of my 10k training, but after I had discovered that I could run a bit faster than I thought. I recruited my friend to run the race with me, since he'd never run a 5k before.

This was my first 5k in a long time, so I was pretty excited about it. I decided that since I'd been running so strongly lately, that I would try to run it in about 28 minutes, which I had done before.

Not only did I accomplish my goal--I smashed it to smithereens by finishing in under 27 minutes--I believe a PR (personal record) for me. I knew that the last bit of the race was downhill (the first 2 miles were pretty hilly), so I budgeted my energy and ran the last mile at a good pace. I was so happy and proud with my finishing time, but since I knew that there are lots of women much faster than that--Lance told me about the winner who came in under 20--I didn't dream that I would win anything.

Well, I did. I won my age group (25-29). And not only that, but I came in 11th overall. I'm so happy with the results, and I'm also determined to keep running--and keep running faster. I'm running a 5k on Thanksgiving with my brother, so I'm setting my goal to run between 26-26:30, provided the race course is flat (this one was pretty hilly).

Yay for running!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Hills!

Have you ever had the feeling where something just clicks? Where everything lines up, and what you're going after (or have been pursuing), just falls into place?

I feel like that with my running.

I took a six month break from running (March to August) because of a mild injury. The less I ran, the less I felt inclined to run. The less I ran, the more depressed I became. It was obviously a mild depression, but when I put my running shoes back on in August, I became keenly aware of what I'd been missing. And I began to run regularly again, with far more dedication and motivation than before my injury.

At the end of October, I started running with a group: Tuesday nights we run drill, hills, and intervals; Thursday is a "fun run"; Sunday is our long endurance run. I'm going into my fourth week of training, and I'm feeling stronger and faster.

The Tuesday night runs have been both challenging and enjoyable. This Tuesday was a hills run: we sprint up a hill, then run down it and repeat three more times. It's hard. I was able to run at a good pace and not feel completely whipped, so I know that I'm getting better.

Running has been clicking. I've been keeping up with the training plan, and I'm going to sign up for a half-marathon group to run in the spring. I just hope that I find a Ph.D. program that clicks as well as my training has...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

So Many Words, So Little Time

In approximately three weeks, I will be sitting down to take the GRE. Again. When asked why I would torture myself again with this obnoxious test, my reply is that I would like a good stipend/fellowship/shot at admission to an awesome PhD program.

You see, my scores were good but not stellar. I'm close to the minimum score needed to get a better fellowship should I remain at the University of Arkansas (not my top choice, though not a bad one), and I want to do whatever I can to improve my chances at getting into a top program.

So, for the next three weeks, I'm going to be memorizing vocabulary words and taking practice tests in addition to gathering up my application materials, obtaining letters of reference, and editing my writing sample and statement of intent.

Why do I put myself through all this torture? Why am I not just done with school already? Because I belong in a PhD program. The GRE studying has been, well, fun in one sense because I'm studying something. I'm learning and absorbing and filing information away, and I love how that feels. I know in my bones that I'm meant to be in the classroom, both to learn and to teach, and the only way I'm going to get there is to take a jump. And there's certainly no time like the present.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Which Witch is Which?

Today I was reading papers for the "grammar" side of things, and one of the writers kept using "witch" instead of "which".

The first time it popped up, I underlined it and said "ooh, witch!" and drew a picture of a witch's hat and broom.

The second time, I underlined it and said "a witch! scary". Then in the margin I wrote "witch/which" and using arrows to indicate the word to which I was referring "This one is a noun" and "This one is a subordinating conjunction". I'm sure you can guess where the arrows went.

I circled a few more misuses. The last instance of "witch" in the paper, I drew another witch's hat and broom. I almost drew a black cat, but then I thought maybe it was going over the line.

I wonder if the writer ever confuse the two again...

(PS: Rory returned tonight! Yay for returned kitties).

Monday, November 02, 2009

Have You Seen My Cat?


One adorably fat tabby named Rory, aged 3 years:

She went missing sometime Saturday, October 31st, after 7pm. She had a collar but lost it earlier that afternoon, so she'll have distinct collar marks. If you've seen this kitty, please let me know!

Poor thing--she's very attached to me and rarely strays too far from home. I just hope someone didn't cat-nap her or pick her up to be their new pet...