Saturday, December 19, 2009

Sugar sugar

I'm rather stressed out today. Tim and I are supposed to be headed out to Oklahoma for Christmas, but our trip has been delayed because of the following:
1. Rock slide blocking I-40 in the mountains of NC
2. Snow storm clogging up our detour route through Virginia
3. Freshly broken tooth in the mouth of yours truly.
Not a happy day. But there's nothing I can do to change those things on this chilly Saturday night, so let's focus on something happy, huh? Something like baked goods!

Back in the 1990s, Corey's mother, Karen, frequently brought home these amazingly tasty sugar cookies topped with apricot icing. I think she bought them out of the back of some woman's car or something. They were obviously homemade - placed on a paper plate and wrapped with cling film, no hint of a price tag or ingredient list to be found. They were so tasty - so soft and chewy without the artificial-ness I taste in most cookies from commercial bakeries. And that icing! So unexpected and delicious.

Occasionally I think back to those amazing cookies & long to eat them again. Since Karen, rest her soul, has left us, I cannot ask her where she bought those cookies. Even if I knew it doesn't matter because I'm stuck in North Carolina now. There was only one thing to do: try to recreate the cookies at home. After tons of searching for the right cookie recipe, I found one on-line a few weeks ago that looked like it had great potential. I tweaked the recipe a bit and was quite pleased with the results. Tim took some to the office & our friend, Kevin, declared them the best sugar cookies he has ever eaten. They're easy to make, too, so if you're in the mood to get your bake on, give these a whirl.

Soft and Chewy Sugar Cookies

2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups white sugar
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar for rolling cookies

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a small bowl, stir together flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.
3. Using a mixer, beat together the butter and sugar until smooth and very fluffy.
4. Beat in egg and vanilla extract.
5. Gradually blend in the dry ingredients.
6. Roll rounded teaspoonfuls of dough into balls. Dip bottom half of balls into sugar. Place balls sugared-side down on lined cookie sheets about 1 1/2 inches apart.
7. Bake 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven, or until lightly browned. DO NOT OVER-BAKE!
8. Let stand on cookie sheet two minutes before removing to cool on wire racks.

I'm experimenting with the apricot icing. The icing I made this time is a blend of powdered sugar, apricot nectar, apricot extract, and a drop of red food coloring. I just kept adding stuff until it looked and tasted right. Don't you hate cooking directions like that? I know I do. At any rate, it was nice, but still not quite what I remembered. I think next time I'll try some apricot preserves instead. If I ever get it to a flavor I like I promise to pass it along.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Weeeee are the champions!

As I mentioned in my last post, I had to turn down a part in a play back in November. If I'd taken the part, I would have been busy 6 nights of the week for about 7 weeks. Since I didn't take the part, I've had a lot of time on my hands. I chose not to waste that time. For instance, last Saturday Tim and I went out with some of my new gal pals for drinks and fooseball.

From left to right: Kathryn, Sarah, Laurie, and Tim. These ladies kick more ass than I can possibly express. The more I hang out with them, the more I like them.

I, as usual, was hysterically inept at fooseball. But when paired with Tim, we were unstoppable!

See that? Those are the EIGHT points Tim and I scored. The girls got just 2. Heh heh.

Because Tim and I were out with the girls on Saturday, we weren't home to watch TV and see that Tim had won more than just a game of fooseball that night. A video game he worked on - Eat Lead: The Return of Matt Hazard - won the Best Comedy Video Game category at Spike's Video Game Awards! We missed the original broadcast, but I hear it'll be shown again this Saturday. Set your DVR's, people.

Victory looks good on us, n'est pas?

Friday, December 11, 2009

A "Really Terrible" Concert

Okay, theater people. It's time for us to admit something. Sometimes when we have to say the familiar phrase, "I can't; I have rehearsals," we feel a bit of smug satisfaction. In those few, brief words, we tell the world that we are talented and creative - so much so that we have been asked by People In The Know to spend much of our free time working on some grand, artistic endeavor.

But sometimes ... sometimes ...

Sometimes there's sadness and regret and frustration in those words.

So here's the deal. Last month I was FINALLY offered a part in a play. Not a speaking part, unfortunately. It was one of those 3rd Spear Carrier To The Right kind of parts. Well, except for the fact that I would have been dancing and not carrying any sharp implements. But none of that matters. The point is it was SOMETHING. Besides, everyone knows that the people with bit parts tend to have the most fun on a show. There's minimal stress since there are no lines to memorize. As a bonus, you get to spend tons of time backstage socializing with the other ensemble players. Just imagine all the possibilities to make friends and connections! I was so thrilled. BEYOND thrilled. The door had been opened wide for me. All I had to do was walk through it.

Just one problem: the orchestra.

The play was running nearly every night for the first 3 weeks of December. The orchestra's Christmas concert conflicted with one of those performances. Just one. Just one night. But sadly, that was enough. Understand that the concert was scheduled for a Wednesday night. It's EXTREMELY rare for community theater groups to have performances on Wednesdays. However, this is the Xmas season and all bets are off. When the Powers That Be at the theater company heard about my conflict, I was given the maybe-next-time polite rejection. Uuuuuuuuuugh.

The non-performers out there will say, "Why not just drop out of the orchestra?"
But the performers will understand. We were one month away from the concert. Just 5 rehearsals left. I had made a commitment. I had to stick by it or deal with the inevitable karmic revenge. "[Director Guy] will understand. In fact, he will appreciate that you honored your previous commitment and will take it as a sign that you are a true professional who can be trusted." I said this to myself. Others said it to me, too. But that didn't change the fact that this was utterly heartbreaking for me.

Enter ... bitterness.

Just the thought of the orchestra made me grumpy. I tried to persevere. I told myself that one of the reasons why I must stay with the orchestra was because if I left I'd have to be replaced. I couldn't ask someone else to learn these pieces in so little time - especially not the Oklahoma Suite. Then our conductor decided that the First Flutes were too overwhelming during the Oklahoma Suite and switched me to the Second Flute part. Note that the Oklahoma Suite was our most difficult piece and runs 11 minutes long. I had logged many many hours on that piece, training my fingers to learn the difficult passages and my diaphragm to force out the extraordinarily high notes. The Second Flute part was not much easier - still tons of difficult passages, only the notes were a smidge higher or lower to create harmony. I found it painfully ironic that, in my attempt to save someone else from learning such a difficult piece in one short month, I found myself in that very position. Months of effort down the drain.

I did not just mumble my displeasure under my breath. I roared. Tim had to hear the worst of it, of course, but others got a fair share, too. A part of me thought about skipping the concert altogether just out of spite. But what would be the point of that? I'd already lost the part in the play. If I had to miss the play because of this concert then, by god, I was going to put in a good showing.

That catches us up to Wednesday night. The concert.

About 500 people paid to see us. They laughed at our silly jokes. They used the complimentary crayons to color the pictures in the program. They gave us a standing ovation. And you want to know something? I enjoyed it! And not just because of the audience's positive reaction, but because of the camaraderie I felt with my fellow musicians. I imagine no one is more surprised than I am by this. I wish I could describe what changed, but it's inexplicable. It's not that we were perfect (Tim says the brass section was especially cringe-worthy at times). But for some reason, it was fun again. I think it helps that the entire ensemble had to hang out backstage together before the concert and during intermission. For a change we were forced get out of our chairs and mingle - to socialize with one another. Compliments were given. Conversations started. I was reminded that these people were not the enemy. Instead, they were very nice. They were funny and kind and were happy to have a chance to play their instruments with a group. I felt a part of an artistic ensemble again, a part of a team. I think that's the feeling I've been looking for all along.

Our conductor, Sandy, sent out an e-mail this week. With the spring semester comes a new season for the Really Terrible Orchestra of the Triangle. There will be all new music to learn. He made no bones about it: if you want to drop out, now is the time to do it.

I've decided to stay.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

george's gloves

As I mentioned in my last post, my netbook was out of commission for a while in November. This turned out to be kinda a good thing because I was forced to spend less time on the internet and more time doing something else. I decided to get my craft on. One of the things I made were these fingerless gloves for george.

This was my first time to knit anything that wasn't flat. The process is ... well, it's kinda funky and strange, but in a good way. Instead of just using 2 regular knitting needles, there are 4 double pointed needles. Three of them form a triangle and ... well, it's just funky. There are pointy things sticking out everywhere. Knitting in the round like this kinda looks like you're manhandling a vicious looking insect or cuddling a hedgehog. I enjoyed it a lot more than I expected.

See the subtle stripe of colors? Notice how they match up on both gloves? I didn't even plan that. Seriously. It was pure fate.

The pattern is "Dashing" from Tim says that they're actually fingerless mittens rather than fingerless gloves. Semantics! Hair-splitting! Bah humbug! Whatever you call them, I loved making them. Here's hoping george loves wearing them!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Yesterday was the birthday of my darling george! Huzzah! You can read about it on her blog.

Since I couldn't be with g on her big day, I was forced to sit at home and pout. Okay, I didn't just pout. I also played on-line and looked a old photos .... photos I was only able to look at because I fiiiiiiiiiiiinally have a working power supply for my netbook! My old power supply died many weeks ago & I've been dealing with the mess ever since. No netbook means no access to my memory cards. No memory cards means no new photos and, without photos, I don't like to blog. But now I can access my photos again! Hooray!

So in honor of g's big day and my brand new power supply, here are some of my favorite pics of me & my georgie-porgie.

And lest we forget everybody's favorite ... The Yeti