Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Perfectionism, the Pioneer Woman, and Me

I've never had much luck with dough. Anything dough-related (unless it's cookie dough) never turns out the way the food magazines promise they will. So when I decided to try the Pioneer Woman's recipe for cinnamon rolls*, I was a bit nervous. My cooking skills are usually pretty good in most areas. I can make cheesecake from scratch. I make mashed potatoes that will make you want to slap your grandmama, as they say in the South. But for some reason, dough is my weak point.

I had two main reasons for making the rolls: Rob loves cinnamon rolls, and I wanted to do a test run for a breakfast potluck at work in a couple of weeks. Last night, I made the dough. I had to stay up until almost one am completing all of the steps since I started late at night. This morning, I took the dough out of the fridge and began to work.

First, I rolled the dough out into a huge rectangle on my counter. Now, this was the first mistake I had. I put down wax paper. Why? Well, because I don't have the fabulous farmhouse kitchen that the Pioneer Woman has. I'm a grad student living in an apartment and thus, I had only the surface above my dishwasher to use. If you bake a lot and you're smarter than me, you probably know why the wax paper was an issue. But just remember it for now.

Then, I poured a bunch of melted butter over the dough, followed by sugar, followed by cinnamon. After that, it was the moment of truth...rolling the dough into a log with a tight spiral of cinnamon sugar. Well, I'm sure you can guess that mine did not turn out like that. It was a log all right, but it wasn't perfect like the Pioneer Woman's. It was sloppy and I'm pretty sure it had a tear in it, out of which oozed a combination of butter and cinnamon sugar. That's when I realized the problem with the wax paper: it stuck to the dough. Despite my best intentions and my attempt to put flour all over the wax paper, it stuck. So then there was the process of removing the wax paper from the roll.

Once I'd finally cut the roll up into slices and put them into pans, I could see that the rolls weren't anything like the ones in the photos. The Pioneer Woman's were shaped perfectly; mine were failing to hold a shape.

I was disappointed. The perfectionist in me said, "There's another one that won't be in your blog." I almost quit right there. What if they were ruined? But then I had a thought: anything with butter and cinnamon sugar in it, covered in icing, cannot be bad. So I baked them and put icing on them. And this is what I got in return: 

They were delicious! The dough just melted in my mouth. They were sweet and delicious without being completely overwhelming. And they were SO. MUCH. BETTER. than the ones you buy in the store.

Moral of the story: Perfectionism has no place in cooking. Have a little faith and take a chance...you may surprise yourself at how well your cooking turns out!

*Note: I used the Pioneer Woman's recipe up until the point of the icing. I made my own icing for these rolls. 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Night terrors (and the partners who won't save you from them)

Last night, I had a nightmare. Not one of those, "I showed up at work naked and my boss saw me and laughed" kind of nightmares, but the kind where someone tries to kill you and you wake up at five a.m. trying to convince yourself that this will not happen in real life. So of course I wake up and look to the other side of the bed, praying as usual that Rob will sense my distress and wake up to comfort me.

Yeah, no. 

He was sleeping peacefully next to me, completely unaware that at that moment, I was reminding myself that no one was really going to come murder me and that all those true crime shows we watch are only on t.v. because this kind of thing doesn't happen all that often.

Or does it? 

Every time he moved or turned, I held out hope that he would open his eyes and see me huddled under the comforter, shaken from my dream. But no such luck. I had to content myself with the fact that his hand was sort of near mine and pretend this was the same thing as actually holding his hand.

And then this morning, it hit me: why aren't men (or partners in general) just programmed so that they will wake up in the dead of night, knowing that you are flipping out over that homicidal bus driver that just tried to kill you and your family in your dreams? (Not that I would know anything about that.) I mean, what good is it that a guy knows your favorite ice cream flavor or can complete your sentences when he's not conscious enough to understand that you are seriously considering not walking into the bathroom to pee because something in the dark may jump out and get you (again, a hypothetical)? Shouldn't it just be automatic that he can sense your needs and wake up out of a dead sleep and hold you while you babble about criminally insane bus drivers and how you almost bit the dust?

I'll be waiting for that to happen. Until then, I'll be hitting Rob until he wakes up to comfort me.

Source: piccsy.com via Ashley on Pinterest

Monday, June 18, 2012

Oh Cat Whisperer, Where Art Thou?

True life: My house is like a feline version of West Side Story. 

If you're fairly new to the blog, these are my babies:

Photographic evidence that they used to like each other
As I briefly explained in this post, my cat Scout (left) reacted badly to Scrabble (right) getting groomed about two months ago. Instead of seeing Scrabble and saying, "Wow, man, bad haircut!" She instead said, "Who the heck are YOU??????" and immediately was on the offensive. She did everything she could to beat the crap out of Scrabble, to the point where I was (and I mean this seriously) convinced she would kill her if she had the opportunity. After all, she is an animal, and that's what animals instinctively do to a threat in many cases. So when Scout started drawing blood, we knew it was time for a separation.

Our arrangement works like this: Scout spends the day in our bedroom and bathroom, and Scrabble runs around the living room and guest room. At least once a day, we put Scrabble in the guest bedroom/bathroom and let Scout have the run of the house.

We've taken Scout to two different vets, both of whom seem completely stymied by the fact that this hasn't cleared up on its own. The first vet knew less about these kind of situations than I did, and all I have is my degree in Google Searching. The second vet was less clueless, and decided we should try an antidepressant on Scout to help with her aggression. You heard me. An antidepressant. I mean, they say animals look like their owners after a while, but this is getting just a little too real for me.

 So we had to go the drug route. Now, if you haven't met me before, you may not be aware of the fact that I'm practically a poster-child for drug-free living. I hate taking any kind of pills unless it's necessary, and I certainly don't do anything illegal. By extension, I'm the same way with my animals. I don't like giving them any kind of medication unless they need it. The idea of Scout being drugged up or not like herself anymore was really tough on me, but it was the only option at the time.

We tried one medication, and the good news was that Scout was still like herself. The bad news was, it didn't work well enough to allow for the cats getting back to being friends again. I called the vet again and we'll be trying Prozac once the other medication gets out of Scout's system. Whether it will work or not is a mystery.

We've basically tried every natural remedy at this point and tried what all the websites have said, but I'm open to suggestions. I've googled "cat therapist" a few times and bookmarked some pages. I'm about to call that weird guy from Animal Planet with the guitar case full of cat toys to come do his thing and fix this.

So, while I wait for my cats to be friends again...anyone know a cat whisperer?

Saturday, June 16, 2012

My Week in Randomness

A random sampling of my week:

  • Apparently I got so enthusiastic about pinning funny Gilmore Girls pins on Pinterest that the website felt the need to keep me in line. It forced me to stop pinning and made a veiled reference to the idea that I may be some kind of spammer because I pinned too quickly. Enough said. 

  •  Scout, one of our cats, is going on Prozac because she will not stop making aggressive moves toward Scrabble. Ever since Scrabble was groomed (read: shaved within an inch of her life), Scout has not recognized her and perceives her as a threat. They now live in separate areas of our apartment (mainly for Scrabble's safety), but that doesn't stop Scout from trying to get to Scrabble under the door. According to the vets office, this is "an unusual case" because "She should have been over it by now." I say it's perfectly understandable because she's her mama's daughter and she knows that holding a grudge burns more calories. 

  • I've never met a glass of wine I didn't like...until this week. I got a glass of Riesling on special at a restaurant, and the following ensued:

Me: Ugh, now I know why this glass of wine was four dollars.
Rob: It's bad? 
Me: It's terrible. I've never had Riesling like this. I can't even drink it...Try it for a minute. Tell me if I'm crazy. 
[Rob takes a sip]
Rob: Oh my God. I thought you were exaggerating. This is awful!
Me: Tastes like soap, doesn't it? 
Rob: Like cleaning fluid. Ugh. 
Me: It's Windex in a glass. 

  • I photographed the step-by-step process of making this chicken recipe and then forgot to photograph the finished product before I cut it up. So we just ate it. This is why my blog is not exactly a cooking blog, despite my best intentions. 
  • I finished the Fifty Shades trilogy this week...now what do I read? 
Source: google.com via Ashley on Pinterest

Saturday, June 9, 2012

A love that endures all things

I'm back! If you missed my first couple of posts about my New York trip, they are here and here.

The whole reason we came to New York was for the wedding of two people we love dearly. I've known the happy couple since I was fourteen years old, and we've become more than friends. We are a family. I can't tell you how thrilled I was when I got the phone call that they would be getting married this year. Because they are a same-sex couple, I wasn't sure if they would have the opportunity to get married in a legal sense. I've debated discussing this on my blog because I know for some people, this is a very controversial and often political issue, and I am not looking to make any kind of a statement by telling this story. I'm talking about it because to me when I was in that room with two men who have been fathers to me in a way no one else ever could be...it wasn't political. It was just love. And that is all I aim to talk about today.

The wedding was held in a lovely restaurant in the West Village. It was a very small wedding, and that made it all the more special. Every person sitting at the table was family. We mingled before the ceremony and took tons of photos. Here's Rob and I all dressed up:

The ceremony itself was so touching and emotional. I won't lie to you...I blubbered a bit. I really had to try not to break into what my mom calls the "ugly cry". No one wants to see that. Since the wedding was small and, as I said, full of family, the grooms had asked all of us to pass around their rings and say a few words while cupping them in our hands...a blessing of sorts. When it was my turn, I held one and Rob held the other. I looked two of the most important people in my life in the eyes and told them that they were fathers to me. The two of them taught me how to walk down stairs in high heels properly (there is a proper way, and when I didn't do it right I went right back up and did it again). They taught me how to have fun in ways I never would have thought to try. They taught me that friends can be family. But most importantly, they taught me the importance of commitment to your partner in the face of adversity. 

Love isn't easy. Everyone's relationship is different, but I can't imagine that keeping a couple together through good times and bad is easy for anyone. To me, love is work. Sounds unromantic, I know, but it is. You have to go into your relationship every single day and give it your best effort. And some days you do well and some days you falter a bit. But if you're willing to go into it every day and try your best and love that person with everything you can give them, no matter what...that's commitment. That's a marriage. And to me, if you can do that even when people are saying that your relationship is wrong or unholy or unacceptable...I am in awe of that. 

That's exactly how I felt on their wedding day. I was in awe of the two people I love so much, who have waited seventeen years for this moment. It was the first wedding I've been to that took me back to why people actually get married. It's about a love that endures all things. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Food, films, and gorgeous flowers....Day 2 in NYC

If you're new to A Recipe for Sanity, check out this post to find out more about me, my blog, and why you should stop by more often!

Now, back to our NYC adventures...

Friday was the day of the wedding, but we still had time to explore the city and do some running around before we had to get ready for the ceremony. We started our day at Sarabeth's for brunch with the grooms and my mom. We enjoyed amazing, fresh breakfast breads like blueberry scones and corn muffins spread with homemade jams. Oh. My. Lord. Rob kept bugging me to try his french toast and I was too enthralled with my mixed berry jam on homemade sourdough toast. Anyway, it was pretty fabulous.

We went from Sarabeth's to the subway station. Once we procured a metrocard for ourselves, we helped a bunch of other tourists navigate the subway system. I was pretty proud that as tourists, we were still looked at as people with some kind of knowledge about the city. Honestly, I have to give Rob the credit because he's way better at directions than I am.

We took the subway to Queens to the Museum of the Moving Image. The museum is hard for me to describe because it basically deals with all kinds of visual arts. Everything from film to television to video games to digital media was on display. We played old video games like Pac Man, Space Invaders, and the  original Super Mario for Nintendo. There were costumes from films and television shows like Bill Cosby's sweater from The Cosby Show and the suit Robin Williams wore to look like a woman in Mrs. Doubtfire. Much to Rob's excitement, there was a ton of Star Trek memorabilia. It was a ton of fun and we really enjoyed ourselves there.

After heading back on the subway and getting over to the Upper West Side, we ordered up some Recession Specials at Gray's Papaya (2 hot dogs and a soda for less than $5!). Then we headed over to the 91st Street Garden.

The garden is in the middle of Riverside Park and is protected by a fence all around it. But there's a gate and a narrow path throughout the garden that allows visitors to walk in and smell the roses up close! As you can see, my Nikon and I had a fantastic time:

The garden was really one of my favorite parts of the trip, and I believe it's where I took the best photos! 

Tune in tomorrow for my thoughts on a very special wedding and more on our NYC advenure!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Welcome to A Recipe for Sanity!

I'm taking a brief break from my New York recap to give a warm welcome to any and all newcomers to A Recipe for Sanity! As some of you may know, I recently started sponsoring an amazing blog called Love is the Adventure in the hopes of attracting more readers like you! 

My name is Ashley and I am the author of this blog. I am a twenty-something girl (woman? person?) living in Central Florida, working full time and pursuing my Masters degree in Marriage and Family Counseling. I love what I do as a counselor, and it is incredibly rewarding...but it does drive me crazy sometimes and push me to learn new things about myself, which I talk about here! I'm also the lucky girl who gets to stand next to this guy as we go through life: 

His name is Rob, and he's the love of my life. He also doesn't let me take photos of him unless he doesn't know I'm taking them...like this one. (Sorry, honey). You can read about how we met, how I almost didn't go to dinner with him on our first date, and how I fell in love in spite of myself here. You can also read about the two furry members of our family, who basically run our lives, right here

Another thing you should know about this blog is that I LOVE to cook. I also enjoy cooking real food that you can actually make yourself at home. I promise you will not find complex, crazy recipes here. Instead, this is the place to find out how to make amazing lasagna with photos for each step of the process. It's also the place to drool over cupcakes like this: 

...and then make them yourself

Finally, I also talk about body image and self-acceptance here. It's a big issue for me personally, and you can find out about that here

I love writing this blog, and I hope you enjoy visiting it as much as I love creating it. If this is your first time visiting, I'd love it if you would leave a comment and let me know! I like to reach out to new readers whenever possible and say thank you! 


Sunday, June 3, 2012

Planes, theater, and burgers...NYC Day 1

Hello from 30,000 feet (or whatever we're at now)!

I kept trying to blog from New York and had some real issues with the internet in our hotel, so it made blogging impossible. I'll be catching up over the next few days with photos of our amazing trip!

We arrived in New York Thursday morning and after checking in to our hotel, immediately headed for Central Park with my mom. We were having lunch at the Boathouse with the grooms and other wedding attendees.

Probably the best thing about the Boathouse other than the crab cakes is the view. Right behind our table was the view of the lake with couples in rowboats.

Before you ask, Rob and I did not partake in any rowing action. There was a kayaking incident in 2009 that put us off rowing altogether. After lunch, we spent the rest of the day relaxing until it was time to get ready for our Broadway show. We saw The Best Man, a revival of the play written by Gore Vidal about a 1960's presidential nomination convention.

Photo credit to the LA Times

The cast was simply incredible. James Earl Jones, Angela Lansbury, Eric McCormack, Candice Bergen...the list goes on. We had an amazing time and couldn't believe we were twenty feet away from such amazing actors! After the show we headed to one of our favorite New York places...the Shake Shack.  

Photo credit
The Shake Shack is the kind of place where you stand outside in line waiting to order and have to strategize in order to find a table. While we stood in line, I heard a man observe, "It's just burgers and shakes. That line is ridiculous?" I object to his use of the word "just". There's no such thing as just a meal at this place. The burgers are made to order, the rolls are fresh baked and perfectly soft, the cheese fries are amazing, and if you've had any kind of ice cream in any form here, you know it's not just a shake. Trust me, I don't stand in line for anything less than awesomeness. 

Our trip to the Shack was a perfect end to our night, and we walked hand in hand back to our hotel. The next day was the big wedding, and we had to be rested and ready for the next night!

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