Thursday, August 27, 2009

7 Days (featuring blue bubbles, gerber daisies, the happiest place on earth and oceanic vessels)

It's been a crazy week to say the least.

I almost died for one. Wednesday, just three hours before I left for the airport, I was stung by a Portuguese Man O' War. Now, it was just a baby one -- a blue bubble they call them -- but I had a terrible allergic reaction and started going into hardcore shock.


I got stung on the ankle. Most people compare the sting to that of a bee. That's not too bad for an adult. It hurts, you push through it, and life is good. But after I was stung the pain began to intensify and move up my leg. The sting formed big welts and swelled up. I began to shiver and sweat, and my breathing became shallow. Soon I was nauseous and pretty worried about where my life was headed. Now, I was prepared to wait it all out right there on the beach. I had Alexis on the phone coaching me via Google (I was combing the shore alone this particular afternoon), I wasn't dizzy or experiencing tunnel vision and vertigo. I had a plane to catch! I was NOT about to go to Kahuku and have them kill me (you laugh but Kahuku Hospital does that to you). Soon, however, my kidneys began hurting. The shutting down of vital organs is never a sign of recovery, so I phoned Marissa and had her pick me up.

This is right afterwards--you can just barely see the welts starting to form

In retrospect, I'm very lucky. I knew exactly what to do to prevent the sting from being too severe. I knew what to do to keep my physical stress level in check. I had Alexis there, reminding be to lay down and put my feet up. By the time Marissa got me to the Health Center I was in much better shape and, obviously, I survived and made it to CA, albeit in some pain. Mahalo, Alexis and Marissa, for your kokua!! HA!

The damage one week later

As for CA, I made it there without a hitch.
DAY 1: Coronado Island, the Rhino Cafe, picking up Brit, Fred's in Old Town, the Carlsbad Outlets (where Camille and I decided-after shopping for men's clothing and experiencing new men's frangrances-that we needed some classy gents)and a sweet, sweet reunion among sisters.
Day 2: Spa day, lingerie shopping, In n' Out, Hojo & company, a questionable bachelorette party, and more amazing chocolate chip cookies.
Day 3: The Wedding! Beginning 6:30 and ending at 2:30, the temple, Big D, C Level, a wedding reception where gerber daisies abound, sending my little sister off with her new hubby, Dr. Pepper and new friends.
Day 4: Teaching Primary, Trish & Rob's monthly partay, more new friends, peach pie with a perfect crust, and heart to hearts with my favorite cuz.
Day 5: DISNEYLAND! Pirates of the Carribean, Blue Bayou, Buzz Lightyear, Tower of Terror, Soarin', new fireworks, Dumbo's magic, tears of love, "they light the lake on fire", postcards, and good music.
Day 6: Kayaking in Mission Bay, more In n' Out, sea gull catching, jumping photos and Uno!
Day 7: The DMV, baby kisses, Harry Potter chopstick wands, the Word Shaker and a welcome home.












I'm tired just from typing that bad boy out. In an effort to make the most of my time there I definitely exhausted myself. However, that's okay because I loved my little adventure and am very grateful for being able to go. I'm also very grateful for those of you out there that helped give my sister the most beautiful day of her life. Thank you. They are little words but I don't know how else to express my big feelings. The love I've felt the last seven days is life changing.

Needless to say, blessed doesn't even begin to describe my life.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Okay, fine!

I love the idea of secret, family recipes. Really, I do. Bush's Baked Beans? I wholeheartedly agree with their add campaign and think that that blabber mouth dog needs to be punished. I had this wonderful idea for that chocolate chip recipe to become one of those secret, family things. However, I also have an affinity for sharing things I love. What good is something awesome if I don't share it with someone? It's like that whole tree crashing in a forest question.

You're lucky.

The urge to share the goodness with you is stronger than the part of me that wants to keep it top secret, so here it goes.

IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE BEFORE WE BEGIN:
Beth, I accept your chocolate chip cookie challenge. However, no cheating and comparing the baked goods before the competition. With that said, next time we see each other it is on, sister! Hopefully it's soon because the idea of a bake off makes me incredibly excited.



THE RECIPE:
2 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cups unsalted butter MELTED
1 cup packed brown sugar (do think about it, just do it)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 TABLESPOON vanilla (drool)
1 egg
1 egg yolk
2+ cups of chocolate chips

Pre-heat your oven to 325 degrees
Melt the butter and combine it with the brown and granulated sugar. In a second bowl, gently beat together the egg, egg yolk and vanilla until just blended. DO NOT OVER BEAT, DO NOT ATTACK IT WITH A WISK! Combine the eggs and butter/sugar mixture until just blended. RESIST THE URGE TO CONTINUE MIXING FOR GOOD MEASURE! Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and once again mix until just blended. When I got to this step I used my electric mixer and finished up the last 10% of the job with a spatula to ensure I didn't beat the shmickle our of my dough. The secret to these cookies really is not over mixing. Don't say I didn't warn you...
Upon combining the deliciousness fold in the chocolate chips. The skinny on the chocolate: half and half--half milk, half bitter-sweet--I promise it will NOT let you down.
Chill the dough. You don't have to wait forever (just 40 minutes to an hour) but they won't set right if you don't cool things down, so be patient and put the dough in the fridge. Once the dough is chilled, don't hesitate to get those bad boys on a tray. These cookies like to spread, so don't put them too close. Place them in the oven for 15-17 minutes. Bake them until the edges just start to turn golden brown. The middles probably won't look completely done. Ignore the middles. They are liars. You are using the edges to get these things perfect. Once you take them out let them cool for a few minutes on the cookie sheet. The residual heat will finish baking the cookies, allowing them to reach an ooey-gooey nirvana. Finish cooling them on a rack, parchment paper, whatever your fancy.
Now for a confession: I did not eat any of these when they were fresh out of the oven. I don't know how they taste then. If they taste funny to you just wait it out because one they cool down they will be like your heroin and I'm not talking female heroes here. FYI: When I baked them I placed 12 big or 20 small on a sheet. The recipe will yield over 4 dozen of the smaller cookies.



And there you have it. The most amazing chocolate chip cookies I have ever had. Do not abuse the privilege I have just afforded you. I will know if you have used this recipe for evil...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Turning 21 with Julia and Chocolate Chip Cookies: an Enthusiastic Post

Monday August 10, 2009 I turned 21, and, I am pleased to say, it was a fabulous birthday. The festivities began the night before with a DELICIOUS lemon cake baked by my dear friend Marissa Greathouse. However, I did not get to blow out any birthday candles. Don't be sad. Candles just aren't how we roll. We're hardcore. We put sparklers in my cake. That's right, my cake looked like a giant, lemony firework and I loved it. After singing and fiery balls of birthday lemon love, there was coloring, birthday kisses, skip-bo and 30 Rock. Basically, only awesome things were allowed to take place that night. Monday brought more happy birthday messages and well wishes from all of my favorite people. In fact, Marie Granoff's happy birthday text ensured that I not sleep through class. Much mahalo, Marie, for supporting my education. It was a delightfully chill day, complete with an afternoon nap and it ended with yummy tacos, ginger ale (<3) and a movie.

Specifically, we went and saw Julie & Julia and from that movie I was given the best birthday present of the year: a new hero, namely JULIA FREAKING CHILD! She is amazing! I've known all of my life who she was but until that movie she was just the funny sounding chick who came PBS on after Wishbone. She made french food. She was old. I didn't think much of her. Little did I know she did some crazy stuff in her life. She was tenacious. She was diligent and purposeful. She loved culture, she loved people and she loved butter just as much as I do. I couldn't have cared less what happened to Julie in that movie. She was someone hopeless taking away from my time with Mrs. Child. Why do I want to hear about some winy woman living in queens when I could find out more about my Julie?! Goodness, I CANNOT WAIT to read her biography!

With that said, let's move on to chocolate chip cookies.
I've been searching for the perfect recipe for a while. I've tried family recipes, friend's recipes, even the Nestle Tollhouse recipe... Each was good but lacked that certain something. I was looking for a cookie that would be slightly crispy on the edges but oh so chewy in the middle, and at the same time, didn't scrimp on flavor. Believe me when I say I've finally found my recipe.


This recipe is perfect. It includes an extra egg yolk for the chewy (but not cakey) goodness I was looking for, and with 1 tablespoon (that's right, TABLEspoon not teaspoon) of vanilla I knew this would be flavor heaven.


I read a LOT of reviews for these cookies before baking (the cookies were for a meeting and i had to get this right) and adjusted the recipe where necessary, executing them perfectly. Specifically, I did everything in my power to avoid mixing the dough too much. It was the most common problem, and produced heavy and sometimes even hard cookies. My favorite personal touch to the recipe was using 1 cup semi-sweet and 1 cup milk chocolate chips instead of just one or the other.


It cut the richness of the 1 tablespoon of vanilla and the cup of brown sugar. Oh, I didn't mention that these cookies call for an entire cup of brown sugar in addition to the 1/2 cup white? Well I'm mentioning it now and Holy Moly does the brown to white ratio make a difference.


I made two batches of these cookies. The first were big, impressive ones to be used as the refreshment for our weekly team meeting. For those cookies I used a 1/8 measuring cup to scoop the dough. It produced about 24 gorgeous cookies.


The second batch (for me and mine to munch on because how do you make cookies but refrain from eating them?) made about 50 cookies that were half the size. The cookies were a HUGE hit with both sets. My friend Kyle at 9 of the small ones, but even more impressive was my boss. He had 8 of the big guys. That's right, 8. I've never seen an adult so adamantly consume cookies. These cookies are just that good.


The smell alone makes your mouth water. I mean just look at them. AMAZING! I'm hesitant to post the recipe, but if you really want it just comment and I'll send it to you complete with my adjustments. I love you just that much.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Photography

I've enjoyed playing with my camera so much lately that I have decided that instead of reprints of famous artwork, or meaningless pictures little cottages in imaginary seaside villages, I'm going to decorate my home with artwork created by me and my future family, specifically, photographs I have taken while adventuring. Now all I need is a nicer camera (like one of the Canon XSI Rebels) so I have more control. Hey, a girl can dream, can't she?

Some of the fun I've had recently: