Wednesday, December 16, 2009


Violet and Elsa’s response to the baking activity

Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Waning Moon
Cloudy and cold

And we’re into Day 5 of no hot water. Getting tired of taking either cold showers or the infamous “whore’s bath.”

It will be months, probably next year, before I can face icing another cookie. I iced from noon until 11 PM last night — close to 500 cookies. AND baked another batch of thumbprints (which came out beautifully) and eggnog angels (that dough is a nightmare to work with).

Re: the latter, the eggnog cookies, I realized that EVERY recipe I tried from the magazine that contains that recipe was wrong. I’m wondering if they actually tested these recipes or, because of cutbacks due to the recession, someone made ‘em up and they printed them without testing. The proportions are wrong. The only even remotely usable recipe is the eggnog cookie (and the icing rocks,now that I’ve modified it). Now, the reason I buy other people’s recipes for holiday cookies is because I’m baking about 1000 of them, and I don’t have time to mess with the recipe. I want something that works. If I wanted to muck around with the recipe, I’d start from scratch and make my own!

Example: For the eggnog icing, it said to put in 3 Tablespoons of eggnog to the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla mixture and then spread on the cookie. You wanna know what 3 T of eggnog made it look like? Cornmeal. It took 7 Tablespoons of good-quality eggnog from my favorite dairy to make a spreadable consistency — 8 if you want it really smooth. SEVEN. That’s a big difference from THREE.

If I’d had the time, I could have messed with the recipe and figured out by how much the amount of flour was off, and how much more I needed to add to make it a solid, workable consistency, not only for rolling it out (I used THREE POUNDS of flour to roll out one batch of cookies, that’s how badly it stuck to everything), but so the cookies wouldn’t break. My normal breakage rate for cookies is about 3 or 4 out of every 100, so 3-4%. With this recipe, it was about 40%. With one of the other recipes in the same magazine, it was 100% — the cookies simply dissolved on the baking sheet.

I started baking cookies when I was four, so I’ve been doing this a LONG time, and I’ve never hit a package of recipes that are this far off, proportion-wise. I may mess with the eggnog recipe over the coming months to get the proportions right, but as for the rest? Not using this publication again, and certainly not buying it next year. AND I’m going to contact them and let them know why. In a half a dozen recipes, surely ONE should have come out exactly as written! I mean, they all should, but still . . .

On the flip side, Martha Stewart’s recipe for Royal Icing comes out perfectly, and I bless the day I picked up Wilton’s meringue powder at the chef store, thinking it might come in useful someday. That stuff is awesome.

Errands in the morning went well. Gotta love Trader Joe’s, dropped my cartridges off at the really good Staples in Larchmont, got my favorite Jim’s Organic Coffee at Mrs. Green’s, found where my yoga studio’s moved — a new, larger, lighter space with better parking, and about a minute closer to me. So that’s all good.

I’m downloading photos and doing the Cookie Cheat Sheets that I pack with them –a photo of the cookie and a one-line description, and warnings if there are any nuts or whatever. And then we assemble the platters, load them into the car and head out. I expect it will take almost all day to deliver 30 platters. I’m anchoring each platter with a small gingerbread cake, and then I have between 3-7 of six different kinds of cookies on each — you can see, there are a lot of cookies around. I have cookie tins stacked everywhere.

I also baked a cake yesterday — I meant to bake it for St. Nicholas Day, but oh well. It’s from the SILVER PALATE GOOD TIMES COOKBOOK, only I changed it. It’s supposed to be a straight up coffee cake with buttermilk, and then a layer of fruit on it and a layer of walnuts. Well, I went to the store because I never keep buttermilk in the house — don’t like it and usually forget to use it when I buy it. There were 16 kinds of eggnog (SIXTEEN — who knew you could have so many flavors of eggnog? Heck, I only drink eggnog once a year; I want it to taste like EGGNOG) — and no buttermilk. The entire shelf of buttermilk was sold out. So I guess a lot of people are baking this year.

Anyway, I picked up sour cream instead, and used sour cream instead of buttermilk — which to me, made the batter taste better. I mixed in the fruit and nuts instead of layering them — and it’s a pretty darned lovely cake, if I do say so myself!

Okay, off to finish the Cookie Cheat Sheets, assemble the platters. I think I’ll have to put the back seat down in order to load 30 cookie platters into a Volkswagen.

Have a great day, everyone!

Yeah, not much writing done yesterday OR this morning, but I have to admit, the minute I lose my holiday spirit, I sit down and write a few paragraphs, and it comes back.

Devon

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Saturday, August 1, 2009
Waxing Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Jupiter Retrograde
Uranus Retrograde
Lammas
Sunny and pleasant

Yes, I’m up very early, but Lammas is a very big day on my personal calendar, so here I am. I’ve already baked cornbread, done yoga, fed the cats, and am doing this before I do my first 1K of the day, for once.

Yesterday’s work day was cut short because of this silly insect bite that felled me like a tree. I went to the family-run pharmacy. They’re fantastic. We talked, they took a look at it, the pharmacist suggested we try a specific cream and some Benedryl. And I was instructed to ice it for 20 minutes every hour as much of the day as possible. He warned me, that, although the box states you can take up to six a day, I should not take more than TWO in a 24-hour period. He asked me if I’d ever taken it before — it was ten years ago, when a little kid I dressed got into poison oak and shared. So he told me not to drive once I’d taken it, and definitely not to take more than two in a 24-hour period. The good news is that, by the look of the area around the bite, my immune system is in good shape — as he said, because I don’t take antibiotics every time I turn around, so that my body actually has built its own immunities and can use them. He also gave me two lists of symptoms: If the first list appeared, I needed to go to the Walk-in clinic, insurance or not; if the second list appeared, I had to go to the emergency room immediately. And, if by last night it wasn’t markedly better, I needed to go to the clinic first thing this morning. He said the insect bites are particularly potent this year, and you can’t wait a few days to see if it gets better. You take the first steps — if they don’t work within the first day, you need to get something a lot stronger FAST.

Good to know.

I went to Staples to stock up on supplies. With my coupons and rewards and all the rest, I only had to shell out $1.36 of my own money. That’s what I call good shopping! They no longer carry the file boxes that will match the ones I have, so I have to try to order them online.

Went to Michael’s. Couldn’t find what I wanted for the harvest wreath, but came up with an idea on how to switch out flowers on the current wreath to make it more harvest-y.

Home, Iced. Ate. Iced. Put the cream on. Iced. Finished my client project and got it out the door FIRST, and then took the Benedryl. Which knocked me on my ass in about 10 minutes. Don’t drive? I could barely walk! But my arm started getting better in a little bit, and the bonus was that, because I couldn’t do much, my wrist got to rest, too.

Finished the badly written book I mentioned a few days ago. I kept hoping it would get better, but it didn’t. Hoped the murderer would kill the protag, but that didn’t happen, either. Won’t be reading anything by that author again! One of the traits that made me dislike the protag was that she felt justified in lying whenever she wanted and however she wanted, with disregard for others to get information, but got mad when others lied to her. And it was never really dealt with in the book. If she showed some growth or reason for the trait, it could have been interesting. But there wasn’t anything. She was supposed to be a likable protag, but she wasn’t.

Cooked dinner, relaxed, called the yoga studio to make sure the meditation session was on in spite of the bad weather, and was told yes. Drove the 20-30 minutes, parking was a bitch (why can’t these places ever rent space where there’s decent parking?), hiked to the center. It’s very new and shiny and hard. The atmosphere is very shiny and hard. I waited for the previous class to finish. Two guys came out of the class and tried to pick me up, while a couple of over-Botoxed women stood nearby, talking loudly and trying to move their faces into glares. Only the eyes managed to convey their annoyance — if looks could kill, there’d have been blood all over the place.

The studio emptied out, and everyone was posing in their expensive yoga clothes and talking very loudly about all the cool events they planned to attend and the famous people with whom they’d be hanging out with between now and the next class. Wonder what they’d think if they know I’ve dealt with most of those people in their underwear in the quick change booth backstage or in the trailer on set?

The workshop leader was a young woman but she, too, had a hardness about her. There were five of us and the leader in the class. It was a very different style than any other meditation group I’ve attended, which is fine, learn new things, whatever I was sitting between a fidgeter and a moaner. The fidgeter I could deal with — part of the process is learning stillness, and for some people it’s harder than others. But the moaner? I kept telling myself, “acceptance, maybe it’s a medical condition or a mental condition” or whatever. What it was was distracting and invasive to everyone else. But every breath was micromanaged by the leader, she spewed psychobabble at us, we sat for only ten minutes, and she dismissed us. Excuse me?

I didn’t get a sense of any commitment to practice from her. My sense was that she’s in this because, in a wealthy suburb, there’s a chance to cash in on all those who are trying to pretend they’re not shallow. There’s nothing wrong with making money from your business, and there’s nothing wrong with running a studio that focuses more on the physical aspects of yoga than the spiritual. But if you’re going to present spiritual aspects, do so from a place of connection and commitment. Don’t repeat what was said to you at an overpriced workshop and was simply a repetition of material pulled off the internet. Even the altar set up in the room had a cold, magazine-shoot feel to it rather than the warmth of a well-used and respected altar.

I don’t want to renounce everything and be a full-time yogi. But I’m not playing at this, either. Yoga, for me, is a way to improve my life through a balance of body and soul, by taking time to practice both alone and in community.

At the other studio earlier in the week, there was a sense of individualism, tranquility, acceptance, and, most importantly, joy. People came with baggage, but, left with huge smiles, and laughing and interacting in a centered, happy way. The leaders are great about keeping things running on time, and being respectful of everyone’s time, but there’s never a sense of feeling rushed. There’s a sense of welcome and inclusion — everyone who walks in is considered a friend one hasn’t yet met. There wasn’t the loud, nervous chatter there was in this place last night. And what struck me, when people left class, was the lack of peace, joy, and energy. Usually, when the doors to a yoga class open, people waft out, a little high from the class. They’re smiling, laughing, they’re quiet as they re-enter the world, but there’s a sense of connectedness. Last night, everyone rushed out to pose by the juice bar, brag, and gossip, like they couldn’t wait to leave class. They competed with each other, which turned me off. I wish them well, but it’s not the right atmosphere for me.

In other words, I’m not going back to the place I went last night, but will continue at the place at which I spent time earlier this week! That’s what you have to do, try this studio and that studio and see which one works for you.

It was interesting. I was very polite — after all, I was a guest in someone else’s space. I said thank you and bolted as gracefully as possible. I turned up the radio on the drive home playing death metal, and, had i passed a bar on the way and not had to drive home, I would have downed several shots!

But the drive home made up for what the meditative experience lacked — one of the largest and most beautiful rainbows I’ve ever seen curved across the road — it was almost as though I could drive right through it! I love rainbows, and I’m very fond of Iris, the Rainbow Goddess — it made my week!

Came home, did my nightly yoga session to get the bad taste out of my body and get back to center. More cream, more ice, another Benedryl, and a good night’s sleep.

Up early this morning. I’m playing today — will have lots to tell you about tomorrow!

Devon

Published in: on August 1, 2009 at 6:25 am  Comments (3)  
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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Sunday, June 14, 2009
Dark Moon
Pluto Retrograde
Supposed to be sunny, but who knows?

I’m typing this Saturday night and scheduling it to post Sunday morning, because, you guessed it, I’m at yet another Mac workshop this morning, this one in White Plains.

I hit the ground running early yesterday — checked to make sure the article posted on Sole Struck, worked on a refusal letter to a client — the terms aren’t acceptable, and I’m trying to say so politely.

I made the 9AM meeting with the Congresswoman. It was great to meet her, her staff was great, and I think I was the only person who was there to do more than simply howl. I thanked her for the help her office gave me on something awhile back, asked her to keep the screws on the banking industry (because the Big Banks are still determined to screw the customers), and we had a brief discussion on health care. When I mentioned I was coming down to the rally, she suggested I stop by her office, I’ll clear it with the staff, let the union people I’m travelling with know, and peel off from our other lobbyng duties in the afternoon so to do.

Since the meeting was right near D’Agostino’s, Ipopped into to pick up my favorite Silver Palate dressing. I’d hoped they had my favorite Scottish smoked salmon pate, but no such luck. Hoped to stop at a small, local sewing store to pick up bobbins and thread, but they weren’t open. Continued to a library sale, where I picked up some books for my mom and a research book I need for a gig I’m pitching. I also picked up some background research for a column I pitched yesterday about eco-friendly living, and for a column I’m about to pitch about holistic life choices for artists.

Continued on to check out a yoga studio I’d heard about — the website looks good, the prices are scale for this area. I came in to find a disgruntled staff, no easily accesable information about class schedules, etc. (I’m sorry but a frustrated sigh with an eye roll and “You can’t look it up on the web?” is NOT the kind of response that’s going to entice me to become a customer), and it was filled with small, screaming, sticky toddlers, all of whom took one look at me and Knew Better. They may have been small and sticky, but they were smarter than their parents. I turned to leave and Ms. Eye Roll-Sigher said, “You’re just walking out?” I turned and said, “I”m looking for a sanctuary, not Gymboree.”

So, that’s two local yoga studios on my “When Pigs Fly” list. The other one wouldn’t let me take a drop-in class, even paying cash — although that’s listed on their schedule, without me giving them my credit card info for “monthly billing.” When I explained that there would be months where I’m travelling and wouldn’t be taking classes, and only wanted to be charged for classes I actually took, I was told, “That’s not how we do things.” Well, guess what, bubblelah? I’m not going to be one of your customers, so at this point, it’s moot. In Massachussetts,they’re actually happy to see you and they want to show you around and have you take time to get to know the studio. Here in Westchester, they act like they’re doing you a favor by allowing you to take a paid class.

Anyway, after that debacle, I headed back home, hoping again to stop at the sewing store, but there was a Lexus SUV trying to crawl up my tail pipe, and I couldn’t pull over to park. Sigh. I’ll probably just drive to Hartsdale sometime next week to the place where I bought the machine to get the bobbins, bring the skirt, and match the thread properly.

Back home, spent about two hours doing receipts. I’m usually good about keeping receipts logged and current, but I haven’t done ANY this year. Two hours got a lot of it done, and now I have a bunch of stuff to file today, so it’s all good.

Off to Stamford in bad traffic and rain for the workshop. Traffic was a nightmare and it started to rain again (note to self: begin Ark construction; design invites). I got there early because I had questions about the iPod Touch, which were answered in a minute, because the people who work at Apple are actually helpful and tell you the truth. Then I wandered around the mall (I’m allergic to them — they give me headaches and make me sneeze). I stopped in at Brookstone to look for international power adaptors/convertors. Heaven forbid the Czech Republic be on the same type of current as anyone else — they’re on 230 (WTF?????). Anyway, when I buy the iPod Touch, I’ll meander two doors down and the guy there will outfit me with the correct adaptor so I can take it to Prague and synch with Mobile Me and online and photos and all the rest. I’ll probably just buy the whole international adaptor pack and ask for a cheat sheet, so no matter where I go, I can take my Stuff.

Anyway, the workshop was great, although I’ll have to play with the stuff we learned about Leopard, and Snow Damn Leopard’s already been released. Now, come on, people, I JUST bought my Mac and there’s already a new system? I’ll go see the snow leopards at the Bronx Zoo, but do I really need them in my computer? And I learned how to clean up what’s become a very cluttered desktop. There were only two of us, so we got to ask lots of questions, and Rebecca’s a great teacher, so it was a terrific class.

I am so getting an external hard drive so I can use Time Machine every week.

Came home, turned on MacGeorge, started to apply some of what I learned in class. It’s so nice to have things actually WORK. I’m still getting used to it.

Received a DVD in the mail of my play (TILL DEATH DO THEY PART), so I can watch that sometime in the next week or so. This was shot when the original cast was still together, before the performance I saw. I’m nervous, but excited to watch it.

Wrote some thank you notes, did some follow-up, ordered some books, and hung out in the evening

As I mentioned earlier, while you read this, i’ll be at yet another Mac workshop in White Plains. Eventually, I will have taken every imaginable workshop and know how to use CORRECTLY what’s in my computer, instead of puling out stuff and trying to learn it as I need it.

Worked out. I’m going to intensify my workouts to gain stamina for the next couple of months and get myself a good headspace.

When I get back from the workshop, I have to do a pile of ironing, catch up on receipts, work on the DIXIE DUST mailing, and spend most of the day on Confidential Job #1.

Have a good one!

Devon