In This Post: The Dog and I Obsess Over the Mail

I lost our mail key last week.

We live in a gorgeous old steel factory that’s on the registry of historic something or other: exposed brick walls, wooden beams running across the high ceilings, 10 foot windows, the works. But we have a tiny little mailbox in the front of the building that is opened by a tiny little key that we keep on a tiny nail in one of the wooden posts in our kitchen that is either beautifully decorative or holding up our lofted bedroom. I tried keeping said tiny little key on my keychain, but Muffin felt this hindered his ability to check the mail when I’m not around. (This is, of course, ridiculous since I’m always around.) So little key went back onto the little nail.

Because I don’t have the key on me when coming and going (also because we use the building’s back door and the mailboxes are by the front door), I tend to only get the mail if I purposely walk the dog out front. This causes a problem because my dog hates the mailroom. It’s not even a mailroom. It’s more of a mail alcove. And yet he hates it. HATES. He will put all of his four pounds into not going into that alcove. He will lean in the opposite direction until he’s at a full 45 degree angle to the ground. Knowing that, as weak as I am, I can still pull his four pounds without much effort, he then goes into stiff legs. All four legs go completely straight and he refuses to walk and I have to drag him to get the mail. This is combined with him barking/growling/snarling (as much as four pound dog can bark/growl/snarl) at the lingering scent of any of the dozen other dogs in our building who have passed through the lobby in last hour. I then have to flip through my mail and deposit what I don’t want into the recycling bin while holding the leash between my knees as the dog tries desperately to escape.  Ultimately, my dog is terrified of having things dropped on him–junk mail and keys included. This may be at least partly my fault.

Once I’ve secured the real mail and recycled the junk mail, (I’m so sorry, CB2 catalogue. You’re not junk. You’re just too tempting as I continue to mentally decorate the house I don’t yet own. We’ll be together again soon, I promise.) the tiny key goes into  the pocket of my puffy winter coat and the tiny dog finally gets to go outside. At this point you might be wondering if the histrionics were because the dog needed to relieve himself after being home all day and not necessarily due to his mailroom neurosis. I assure you, this is not the case. He’s a nut job. We go outside, the dog does his business, which includes sniffing the places where all of the other dogs have done their business, and we slowly make our way to the back of the building as I scan the church newsletter or flip through Muffin’s new Runner’s World. We go back inside and I deposit the tiny key back onto the tiny nail.

Except sometimes I forget to do this and the key stays in my pocket until the next time I need to get the mail.

Last week I went to retrieve the key from my pocket only to find the pocket empty. I immediately blamed Muffin. He had clearly been messing with the other keys hanging from hooks and nails on the post and he must, MUST, have done something with the mail key. He admitted to the messing around–he moved some other tiny keys that go to tiny locks that are locking who knows what, who knows where. He even checked the drawer where he put the other tiny keys. No mail key. We went a few more days with him not really caring about the mail and me alternating between blaming him and worrying that the key fell out of my coat pocket or that I put it down somewhere in our admittedly messy home and it would be lost until we moved (it’s a VERY tiny key). So I cleaned. And I straightened. And I looked behind, around, and under every logical surface. And then I had an idea. I checked the pocket of my trench coat.

‘Cause it had been raining the last day I took the mail out. Oops.

The good news is that I found the key! Just in time for Holiday Card Season!

Which is a good thing because I love getting holiday cards. Loooooooove it. I love when people hand-write personal notes. I love seeing your Christmas trees. I love your pets in sweaters and reindeer antlers. And even though I resent you for having children when you should be obsessing about the Walking Dead winter finale or complaining when you only have time to read one book this month, I love your children dressed up in matching outfits, knowing that you probably had to take thirty photos to get that one, perfect, everyone looking the same direction, magical photo. I love hanging cards in my home–currently we’re lining our banister with your smiling faces. I love that you thought of us when you put together your mailing list. I love, and feel a little sorry for, you as you try to figure out how to address an envelope to someone who kept her maiden name (Mrs.? Ms.?). Love.

Of course, I haven’t sent a Christmas card  since 1998 when I bought a pack from Hallmark and handed them out to my friends at school. Who has time with episodes of Revenge available On Demand?

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Breaking Up is Hard to Do

Dear Cable,

We’ve been here before.  Things are going along fine. We spend time together most nights–World News at 6:30. Jeopardy at 7:00. Comedies. Dramas. The occasional guilty pleasure coughduckdynastycoughcough. But you don’t judge. Any time together is fine by you.

And then you get needy. Clingy. Demanding. And maybe a little jealous of the HBOGo app on the Smart TV.  Don’t deny it. You’ve been rolling your eyes at any mention of Netflix for years. Netflix is nice, I say. It offers movies and tv shows you’re not showing. Eye roll.

You more than double the cost of being together. You tell me  that if this isn’t working, we can see less of each other. Less of each other? Channels 2-22? I’d rather not see you at all.

Last time you panicked. Started throwing out the apologies and promises to change. Please stay! you begged. Don’t go!  You offered me free movie channels (not the good ones, but at least you were trying). You  gave me a special rate. You made me believe I was special.

Not this time. When it all happened again, the jarring letter in the mail (so cold!), the realization that you are incapable of true change, I knew our time had come. This relationship isn’t working, I say.  To be honest, I don’t find many of your channels attractive anymore. I try to remember the last time I watched Bravo–I’m sure it’s been two or three seasons of Top Chef.

And that’s when you shrugged. Fine. Go. 

Hulu Plus is only $7.99/month.

Eye roll. Good luck watching the series finale of How I Met Your Mother. 

I’m not bluffing, Cable! I’m leaving you!

You’ll be back.

Why Siri And I Are Not Speaking At The Moment

I should first warn you that I blame Siri for anything having remotely to do with my iPhone, though I always say thank you when she actually gets something right. She usually replies with something snarky and sarcastic like, “It was my pleasure.” Also, despite my repeatedly asking her to call me by name, she pretty much never does.

Today I put Siri to the simple task of looking up directions. I typed in the road name as E Main St. She sent me to Main St–NOT THE SAME THING especially because there IS a Main St. in town. I tried East Main St. Same result. She even asked if perhaps I meant East Main St in a different town. Thanks but no thanks.

Finally I tried putting in the route number instead of the street name and this is what she came back with:

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Siriously??

Dear God,

Please grant me the strength not to throw Siri across the room.

Love, Jessica

Welcome Back

I got an email the other day from WordPress alerting me that, unless I objected, they were going to charge me $26 to keep my domain name. Even though I haven’t posted in about ten months and even though I gave up on trying to properly write down recipes that can be followed by anyone other than me, and even though I’m not really in a position to be throwing around $26, I didn’t want to lose The Temperamental Kitchen. Go ahead and charge me, WordPress, you capitalist machine!

Besides, a lot has happened in the last ten months! Like this:

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And this!

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I bought Muffin the worst fish tank ever for Christmas. It was supposed to fit nicely into our bookshelf, except when you add several gallons of water it apparently gets too heavy and the shelf starts to sag. The light has failed three times now. Also, it makes the fish swim upside down:

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I made  a cake with a kick-ass fondant bow!

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I found this decorative sign that pretty much sums up my suspicions:

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I fell in love with Shaun T.:

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Went to Hawaii:

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And rode a BMW bicycle.

Why yes, that IS a bell on my BMW bike!

Why yes, that IS a bell on my BMW bike!

 

Um, I guess that pretty much brings you up-to-date.

How I Spent $40 at Michael’s on Cupcake Liners

So, those disastrous cherry cola cupcakes? They were supposed to be for a bake sale at Hubs’ office to raise money for a breast cancer walk. Discouraged and running out of time, I whipped up a quick batch of vanilla. I know. Boring. But sometimes a boring cupcake paired with a subtle frosting is just the thing to make the frosting flavor more pronounced. I adore my maraschino cherry frosting, but it’s not a bold flavor and can be trumped by the cake. The Cherry Vanilla combo was a perfect way to get the full feel of the maraschino flavoring.

Hubs reported back that they were a hit at the bake sale. Now, my husband shows his love in many ways–affection, gifts, overall tolerance of my shenanigans–but compliments are not usually in his repertoire. My sister-in-law once commented at a wedding that Hubs’ brother hadn’t yet commented on how she looked dressed up with hair and make up done. I laughed. I’m pretty sure the words “get use to it” were exchanged.  It’s not that they don’t care or aren’t thinking it–they just don’t verbalize it. So when my husband told me that my cupcakes looked the best and that they had a great reception, I was elated. Of course, when he told me he lent out my Martha Stewart carrying case to a coworker who was taking many baked goods home with her, I informed him the exact section of Macy’s he would be visiting should it not be returned in a timely manner.

In other news, I went to Michael’s yesterday to see what their cupcake liner selection was like and walked out with about $40 worth of fun. To be fair, I have a couple of events coming up for which I’ll be needing the good stuff  but some were impulse buys rationalized as “good to have on hand.” I started off with just the liners I needed for a party in November. I knew the colors but kept going back and forth about which patterns and styles. Then I started looking at the flower petal liners. Then the bright pink animal print. The purple damask. Then I wandered into a section of cut out designs that go AROUND the liners. Cupcake Accessories!! I had to practically cover my eyes and sprint by the sprinkles, glitter, and dyes. And yes, it did feel like I was cheating on New York Cake Supplies but my level headed husband pointed out that maybe it wasn’t worth the $20 ticket into the city just to buy cupcake liners. Surely I would have found something else to do, but that probably would have involved more money spent on food and drinks. Life is tough.

 

*I forgot to photograph the gorgeous dozen that I sent off to the bake sale, so this is a photo of the small end-of-the frosting cupcake I had left over.

 

 

Bad Chemistry

Have you ever glanced into your oven mid-baking only to see that the process is going very, very wrong and there’s nothing you can do to stop it? That was me last night trying to bake cola cupcakes. Not only were the centers caving in, but they were over flowing the tin and cratering like a porous sponge. The oven was set to 350 but the thermometer said 300, so I couldn’t even blame the oven for being too hot. I did try to blame the thermometer for being broken, but I think that was a futile attempt to shift blame.

Theories? Maybe there was still some carbonation in the soda even after reducing it on the stove and sitting uncovered in the fridge during the Giants game and then some. Maybe I added too much baking soda or I didn’t properly mix it? Maybe it was just bad chemistry.

I like things to go one of two ways: either there are strict rules that are the same every time or there are no rules and experimentation means taste testing as you go–like with most cooking. Baking is a strange animal. The chemistry changes when you add or subtract ingredients and building a recipe from the ground up is just plain hard. The worst part for me was tossing 18 inedible cupcakes into the garbage. I feel like when dinner goes bad we just cover it in a sauce or add more salt or when all else fails smother it in hot sauce. I rarely need to throw a meal away because it can’t be saved.

The one silver lining is that the cupcakes didn’t taste like cola, so I wasn’t wasting something that had potential. They were more like vanilla cupcakes that had just started to caramelize.

And by caramelize, I mean burn.

 

 

 

Goat Cheese Heavan

I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but the last 10 or 11 months have seen a baby explosion. I don’t know what you were all doing in 2011 to cause this (okay, I know exactly what you were doing) but now there are babies everywhere.  On our vacation two weeks ago, we got to meet a lot of these new babies for the first time–holy crap, you guys must know the secret to making cute kids. When we arrived in Baltimore during the week, our friend showed off her gorgeous daughter, a smiling, laughing, well-behaved little girl, and then informed me that, if I didn’t object, we would leave the guys with the baby after dinner and go to the kind of trendy restaurant that any self-respecting city dweller would not even think of bringing an infant.

Sounded good to me. We went to Salt Tavern and I had a strong bourbon/cherry concoction and we split a plate of goat cheese donuts. Let me say that again. Goat Cheese Donuts. I knew that I had to try to replicate them in cupcake form.

Guys. I know I say this often. But these might be the most amazing cupcakes I’ve ever made. The goat cheese makes them dense, ultra-creamy, and a little tangy. I had one straight from the oven with a drizzle of honey and it was incredible. I then frosted them with honey buttercream and they were even better. They were so good that I was desperate to share them with someone. I drove to my mom’s office in the rain and waited for her to get back from lunch so I could give her a few. She confirmed that they are, indeed, amazing, but noted that they may not be for everyone. If you favor airy, fluffy crumb, spongy cupcake then these are not for you. These soft little bricks of rich thickness.

I was so crazy about the flavor that I–queen of the three inch frosting dollop–just smeared a little on top with a knife.

Heaven.

 

Making the Most of Store-Bought Sauces and Marinades

Some weeks (months?) do not allow for cooking from scratch. For example–the week after a vacation, when you have no desire to go grocery shopping or do any meal planning. These are the times when the take out menus are most tempting. However, Hubs and I managed to come up with four reeeeeeally good dinners this week using the what we had in our fridge and cabinets, which wasn’t much.

Monday

What started off as penne and red sauce from a jar was magically transformed into amazing penne a la vodka with a quick stop at whole foods for heavy cream and garlic bread. My husband wasn’t sure how to judge the ingredients since he usually makes his own sauce from scratch, but he came up with a great balance with the jar sauce, cream, vodka, and red pepper flakes. We keep a small bottle of cheap vodka in a kitchen cabinet–it’s not suitable for drinking but always on hand for cooking.

Tuesday

Desperate for vegetables but not ready to commit to a completely healthy meal, we had caesar salad with “grilled” shrimp Tuesday night. A quick trip  to Stop and Shop got us the shrimp and salad mix and I made a sauce using Penzey’s Creamy Peppercorn Spice Blend mixed with mayo. We used the Griddler to mock-grill the shrimp. The sauce was creamy and flavorful and worked well with the caesar dressing on the salad.

Wednesday

Stir Fry! Rice–check. Eggs–check. Soy sauce–check. Leftover chicken and shrimp–check. Veggies? Ducked into Whole Foods for their pre-cut stir fry blend. I don’t usually go for teriyaki sauce but Hubs was cooking his chicken (shrimp was for me!) in a good coating and it smelled SO good that I asked him to pour a little my way. He also mixed in some sesame ginger salad dressing/marinade (I don’t recall the brand!) to the rice and veggies. Either my chop stick skills are faltering or the rice wasn’t quite sticky enough because it took me longer than usually to eat dinner.

Thursday

While putting together my food for the day Thursday morning, I noticed we had two pieces of chicken left and dumped them into a tupperware with the remains of a bottle of Lawry’s Santa Fe Chili marinade. Another trip to Whole Foods on my way home resulted in southwest salad (which obviously contains copious amounts of shredded cheese). Hubs cooked the chicken in the toaster oven and got it just to the point where it was juicy and flavorful and not at all dry, at which point I can’t even think about it.

Tonight? Hubs is on his own while Mom and I head to my favorite restaurant in the entire universe.

And something weird, while we’re chatting–the dog has now identified the sound of a fork hitting the plate or bowl for the final time, indicating that we’re done eating and it’s safe to come to the table. He knows that it’s a lost cause to beg for food while we eat, but as soon as we’re done it’s game on. I can’t be sure it’s the sound of the fork, but we can’t figure out what else he’s listening/watching/smelling for. He usually goes upstairs while we eat so he doesn’t have a great visual. He’s obviously the smarted dog in the world.

Have a great weekend!

 

Where is the Temperamental Kitchen?

Friends,

You may not have noticed the lack of Temperamental Blog Posts as much as I have felt the pains of not writing them, but I’m going to apologize anyway because it’s the right thing to do and my parents raised me to be a good, if not obnoxiously sarcastic and self-involved, person. I took a much-needed and vastly-enjoyed vacation last week, but the paucity of fulfilling, worthy posts has been going on for a while. One problem is certainly lack of time during the day and complete exhaustion at night (my evenings involve wine + dinner with Hubs + playing with Madison + staring at the TV for an hour + lying in bed thinking about how badly I need a new mattress among other taxing life changes that I need to make.) What I mean by this is that cooking and baking have not been properly showcased in my life and I’ve found myself with little to write about.

This must change. Even if the only people to read with any regularity are my mom (Hi Mom!), and my cousins (Hi Kym, Kasey, and sometimes Ryan!) I get a lot out of writing them, especially since Writing My Novel has fallen even further down the list of Thing To Do than Writing My Blog.

There is good news! I’m working on a new project that will hopefully kick-start my baking and I have a few events coming up that will definitely lead to some new posts about cupcakes. In the meantime, I hope to start writing posts for the fun of writing even if I don’t have a recipe for you. Because, let’s face it, my recipes aren’t that great anyway. (Modifier: my cooking is fantastic/good/edible. My recipe writing skills, not so much.)

Those of you not obligated by shared DNA to check in on me and my ramblings, thanks for reading! I hope to continue to make it worth the time you spend staring at your I-phone pretending to be reading an important email at work.

Um, that’s all. Here’s a photo of Victor Cruz wearing a sombrero. Enjoy.