Monday, September 30, 2013

Monday Movie Madness: Last Night

No more trips to the theater, this week it's just a new-to-me movie that I watched for the first time on Netflix Instant.  I tend to gather movies in my queue like skeins in my stash of yarn, with much more than I'm sure I can watch, but I randomly decided to give this one a go the other day.

As the trailer tells you, 'Last Night' is a drama about a couple with an impossibly fabulous Manhattan apartment and impossibly fabulous romantic dilemmas.  Michael has a female coworker who is just as attractive as she is attracted to him.  They are off to Philadelphia for the night to win over an important client.  But not to be outdone, Joanna ends up running into her French ex-boyfriend, a fellow writer who is clearly on the top of her list of 'what if's in life.

Oh, to have these kinds of problems.

Snark aside, this was a rather lovely movie.  Quiet and unassuming, but rich with implications.  The will-we-or-won't-we atmosphere isn't too overwrought.  Aside from the real estate and the fact that Joanna has the kind of job that only people in movies ever seem to have and still eat anything other than Ramen, there are some sincere and sympathetic moments.  Essentially, the film portrays two kinds of romantic betrayal: the physical and the emotional.  Which is worse and whether Joanna and Michael's marriage can survive either or both are questions that the film poses to the viewer without explicitly stating the answer.

I really enjoyed watching this, and it's perfect for the recently rainy weather we've been having here.  A moody movie for a gloomy afternoon, to be enjoyed with snuggly socks and a cup of cocoa.

That's it for this edition of Monday Movie Madness, care of Amaryllis Musings, curtain down!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: October is a Magical Month

October was never my favorite month growing up.  Halloween was a wonderful sugar rush, but otherwise there was nothing to bring fame to this particular fall month.  At Sarah Lawrence there were October Study Days, basically a four-day weekend that evened out the Thanksgiving holiday later in the semester by ensuring that each of the weekdays occurred the same number of times in the academic calendar.  But that was mostly a reminder that our semester-long research papers should be transitioning from the ethereal, that could be an interesting idea phase to the checking out books from the library, whipping out the post-its, and panicking just a little bit phase.

But in my grown-up years, October has really had it's time to shine.  For example, it's the month Jeffrey Eugenides came to BookPeople with 'The Marriage Plot', and last time I was in Tokyo, that was October.  I'm still patiently waiting for Eugenides' next novel and reading through my bookshelves here in Texas in the meantime, but there are plenty of other things to look forward to this year.

A few years ago it was 'Spring Awakening', now 'Book of Mormon' is coming to Austin as part of Broadway Across America, and thanks to a friend who is in need of a fellow musical lover to use a spare ticket, I get to go see it on Tuesday!

And then, for the first weekend of the month, my mom and I are going to get to meet up with a fellow Raveler, which is always a lot of fun.  Aside from getting to knit and chat with someone we feel we already know, she's also letting me borrow her Ashford Traveller for an extended period of time.  This calls for another exclamation point for awesome friends!  I'm so ready to start spinning on a wheel, it's going to be very exciting.

The fiber fun won't stop there, because the next two weekends of October are slated for the Hill Country Yarn Crawl.  With two weekends to visit the eleven stores this year, we're going to have a little extra time to plan reasonable routes without worrying about getting to the final stops of the day before they close.  And I already have a frozen yogurt stop identified to go along with each day of Crawling.

Once the Crawl is over, the magic goes on.  There's an SLC alumni meet-up event downtown on one evening that I'm looking forward to.  There's a safety net to this kind of socializing, because even though I'm going alone, everyone there will have at least one thing in common.  And I'm hoping that I might see some of the people I met a few years ago at the last meet-up I went to.  We exchanged Facebook friendings, but I've been lax in following up.

Serena Ryder was initially supposed to have a show in Austin in September, but her touring schedule changed and that was cancelled.  Thankfully, she'll be here at the end of October at Stubb's.  I first saw her opening for the Barenaked Ladies, and it's kind of cool to see her new single, 'Stompa' getting good play.

Having so many events on my social calendar makes me look a little more like a 20-something singleton and less like a crafty spinster in training.  Always good.

And then, it's not technically until after October has left me that I reap the rewards, but the Halloween candy that goes on sale after the trick or treating is over is one of my favorite grocery shopping trips.  Reese's, sour candies, heck, even candy corn.  Because that will be turned into Homemade Butterfingers.

Bring on October!  Is there anything you're looking forward to this month?  Or is there another month where lots of great things seem to gather for you?

There's more inspiration at Woolen Diversions.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

WIP Wednesday: WIP-lash

Another busy Wednesday evening for me means another drive by post.  I spent all of the work day at a work event, then did some errand-running and made the shocking discovery that the Fuddruckers that's been around since I was a little kid has closed.  So instead of chili cheese fries, I had channa saag and roti for dinner.  Chickpeas are better for me then chili, anyway.

I do have some pictures for you this time, though.  I started a new project after blocking my cardigan, a colorful Coqille Shawl inspired by another Raveler who used this same Knit Picks yarn and colorway to create this short row shawl:

You might also notice my nails oh so casually posed in these pics.  They are indeed painted with last week's nail polish purchase, Butter London's Blagger.

Until next time!  For more WIP Wednesday posts, go to Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Cookie Butter Cookie Dough Bites

Is there anyone out there who hasn't eaten raw cookie dough?  It's so delicious.  But like many of life's pleasures, it is illicit and just a little dangerous, because of that uncooked egg.  I am willing to take my life into my hands for the sake of a taste of my cookies (and cakes and brownies and anything else) as I'm making them, but of course I'm not going to subject my coworkers to such cavalier snacking.

Fortunately, the lure of cookie dough is strong enough that we have developed recipes specifically for dough which will never be baked.  Which brings up an existential question: if it's never going to be baked, is it dough?  Is the very state of dough as something which shall be baked intrinsic to the definition?  Is it possible for a Sarah Lawrence student to spin this into an entire paper, perhaps for some class on the anthropology of food?

If an SLC-er were to attempt such a thing,  The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook would have to be a top resource.  An entire book of recipes just for cookie dough?  It's a beautiful thing.  The book is still on my wish list, but some basic recipes have made the rounds on several blogs, to which I applied my patented strategy of treating every ingredient as an opportunity to amp up the flavor profiles.

Cookie dough is the old school when it comes to cookies that aren't cookies.  The trendy new way to subvert the baked good system is cookie butter.  For those who haven't yet become addicted, it's like peanut butter...but with cinnamon cookies.  So when making cookie dough balls, why not bring cookie butter into the mix?  And hey, Dove has brought chocolate into the mix, so why shouldn't I?  And then once you've done that, you might as well embrace the snickerdoodliness of it all and roll the balls in cinnamon sugar.

I have a dangerous mind.  Dangerous and delicious.

Cookie Butter Cookie Dough Bites
Adapted from The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Truffles


  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
  • 1/4 cup cookie butter (I used crunchy)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 1/8 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 7 squares of Dove cinnamon cookie chocolate, cut into quarters*
  • Additional sugar and cinnamon, for rolling

* Or any small piece of chocolate you have on hand, about 1 cm square


  1. Mix butters and sugars together until fluffy.
  2. Add milk, vanilla extract, and cinnamon.  Mix until combined.
  3. Mix in cinnamon, flour, and salt until combined.
  4. Chill dough in fridge for about 30 minutes.
  5. Remove dough from fridge.  Take about a tablespoon at a time and roll into roughly a ball.  Press thumb into the center and stuff the ball with a piece of chocolate, re-rolling the ball around it.
  6. In a small bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon.  Roll each ball in cinnamon sugar until coated.
  7. Store balls in a container single layer in the fridge.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Movie Madness Monday: The Butler

Another movie that's in theaters?  Shocking!  Last week it was a movie that I specifically made an effort to see, this week going to the movies just sort of fell into place as something to do on a Saturday, and what I saw was kind of secondary to that activity.  After perusing the various offerings and showtimes, we settled on 'The Butler' at the Alamo Drafthouse, Austin's favorite food-meets-film theater chain.

From the cotton fields to the Oval Office over the course of decades, one man serves as a butler in the White House while the country moves from segregation to a black president.  But because they are condensing so much, it plays like a slightly more sentimental news reel, with occasional pauses for personal drama.  It's very much a studio picture.  A lot of well-known names in every level of role, a story that is powerful but inoffensive at the same time, something that most people can safely agree to going to see.  Engaging, but unchallenging.

I couldn't help but think of a beloved professor from Sarah Lawrence and what he would have to say about it all.  And when the movie culminates in Obama's election (um, spoiler?), the collegiate nostalgia came back again as I remembered how we watched the votes come in under a huge tent on the lawn while wearing plastic patriotic bowler hats.

The most successful scenes for me were when they took the time to show ordinary moments between the characters.  Conversations around a poker game or the breakfast and dinner table rang truer than many of the montage sequences that moved us from administration to administration.  The history is covered in Hollywood gloss, and the family's issues don't have a chance to develop beyond the broadest of brushstrokes.  Trying to do two things at once means that neither really succeeds as well as it could have.

After two hours and twelve minutes, the most interesting thing to discuss about the movie was each of the actor-president match ups.  And there were some good ones.  Alan Rickman as Reagan?  Would never have occurred to me, but he absolutely has that face.  Jane Fonda as Nancy was pretty spot on as well.  Something about John Cusack's Nixon wasn't quite right, though.  He exudes this innate sense of self-deprecation that is very un-Nixon.  I wish Lady Bird Johnson had made an appearance, I owe her a debt of gratitude for the wildflowers that grow along the highways every spring.

All in all, a perfectly good excuse to enjoy some garlic hummus and veggies at the Alamo, but I wish 'Don Jon' had already been out.

There's more movie madness this Monday at Amaryllis Musings.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Reaping the rewards

I feel like I've had a rather productive week or two, as evidence by my very jolly FO Friday post yesterday, but also in other things.

There's a project at work that has been particularly 'engaging', shall we say.  It's taken a lot of time and energy, but it has given me a sense that I'm contributing and accomplishing something.  Which, I think we all know, is not something that every demanding project gives back in return.

I also ran five miles last Saturday.  A short distance for many but my longest so far in my marathon training.  I ran the whole way, with no walk breaks, maintaining a steady pace just under a 12-minute mile.  Again, I know that in the running world, this isn't medal-worthy, but it's a start.  And perhaps the greatest accomplishment was not wanting to collapse when I was done.  Today I was back to just a three-mile run, but I took it on a very hilly road, so I feel no less accomplished for each of those steps.

To accompany this sense of effort, I paid myself a few rewards.  Nothing all that crazy or exciting, just the kind of stuff that I think we all indulge in when we're feeling proud of ourselves in some way.

First, I had a huge bowl of frozen yogurt for lunch after my run last week.  But frozen yogurt has become an almost weekly treat of mine, the swirled dessert and fresh fruit are what I give myself instead of entire pints of ice cream.  And it doesn't feel like any less of a reward.  I never expected to be get excited by the possibility of eating pomegranates or pureeing cauliflower, but those really are things I crave now, and feel lucky to find in the fridge.

After I finished blocking my cardigan on Sunday afternoon, I realized that I didn't have anything currently on my needles to knit.  Rather than pick up another of my hibernating WIPs, I let myself cast on a project that I've had in my queue for some time.  I'll share more on that next Wednesday, but the main reason I chose it was because it uses a very fun, colorful yarn.  I love crazy rainbow yarns, they make me happy as I knit each stitch on the needle to watch the colors shift.

I mentioned this briefly on Wednesday.  I was able to untangle a particularly confounding knot at work earlier that day, and then I did my running and a class at the gym, so I decided to take advantage of a one-day sale Ulta was having on Butter London nail polishes.  For those who are not beauty-obsessed, Butter London is one of the nicer polishes, and it has the $15 price tag to prove it.  I've wanted to try it for a while, but was unwilling to spend that much.  With the sale, and my sense of deserving, I invested in a single bottle, in a blue hue called Blagger.

I think I'll paint my nails tomorrow while I'm overdosing on NFL games.  As long as I'm not too busy knitting my colorful cast on or deseeding a pomegranate.

What little ways do you reward yourself?  Tell me in the comments, and don't forget to visit Alicia at Woolen Diversions for more inspiration.

Friday, September 20, 2013

FO Friday: Merry Christmas!

It may be September, but it might as well be Christmas as far as my FOs are concerned.  And not just because I'm as giddy as a good little girl who has dutifully stayed in bed all night and finally sees the sun peaking over the horizon on Christmas morning.  Finished objects, everybody!  This is exciting!

First, my dishcloths for Yarnorama's holiday party:

Notice that I added a little loop for hanging?  That right there is the extent of my crochet skills at this point, but I'm applying them.  I hope they are impressive enough to be 'stolen' once in the dishcloth swap.  I really enjoyed working with the yarn and the pattern, both of which I'd like to use again, if not necessarily for the same project.  A top in this cotton would be lovely, and I'm thinking that a cowl in this stitch would be really pretty.  Maybe with handspun 'bricks'.

And speaking of handspun:

What do these five skeins of handspun merino have to do with Christmas?  They were meant to be a Christmas present for my mother.

Last year.

I'm a slow spinner.  I really need to get a wheel.  And another day in the week might help as well.  But anyway, in a little less than a year (I purchased the fiber during last year's Yarn Crawl), I spun four ounces of two-ply totaling about 530 yards.  My mom was asking me what she should knit with it, but honestly, I have no thoughts on that front.  I was just focused on getting it done.  She's open to suggestions, so if you have any I'll be sure to pass them along.

Ho, ho, ho!  For more FOs, go to Tami's Amis.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

WIP Wednesday: New cardy's on the block

Today, after being master problem-solver at work, I ran three miles, took a gym class, bought nail polish, had dinner, went grocery shopping, and now I'm writing this blog post.  So forgive my brevity, because I still have to take a shower tonight.

I feel like I have a lot that I could report on in terms of progress, but here's the big, major, awesome thing:

That, my friends, is my cardigan.  All the pieces knit up, washed, blocked, and drying.  There are, of course, many more tasks ahead, but I feel so accomplished to have reached this milestone, not even the sewing, beading, and ruffles can scare me too badly.  They are all bound to at least be more fun than crawling on the carpet and measuring and pinning these things out.  I've heard that there are people who enjoy blocking.  I've also heard that there's a Loch Ness monster, though, so...

I also have an FO for this week, so hopefully I will have more time on Friday to talk about the other things on my mind as I share that.  Until then, you can explore more WIPs at Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Chocolate Caramel Apple Magic Bars

There's a fine line when you're combining flavors, between fantastic taste explosion and muddled mess.  I'm always aware of this line, and I fear crossing it.  What I never fear is sweetened condensed milk.  Magic bars come in all varieties, but I think the condensed milk is the pixie dust that makes it work each time, blending the flavors and creating a delicious gooey texture.

This particular magic bar continued my theme of fall and began with some seasonal Milky Way bars: caramel apple.  I wanted something that built on the caramel apple-ness of it, but because it is also ultimately a chocolate candy bar, I didn't want to miss out on the chocolate aspect.  The addition of cinnamon in the chocolate dough adds just a note of warmth, while the pumpkin butter really drives home that fall flavor.  If you have apple butter, though, that would be even better.  The condensed milk definitely echoes the caramel of the Milky Way, and a sprinkling of sea salt seems to be the trendy way of setting it off.

These are thick, gooey, and rich.  And I'm proud to say that one coworker called these the most deeply flavorful treat yet.  So I'm walking that line, just like Johnny Cash.

Chocolate Caramel Apple Magic Bars
Adapted from Averie Cooks: Milky Way Chocolate Cookie Crumble Bars

Makes an 8 x 8 pan


  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sweetened cocoa powder (note: that's sweetened; if you have unsweetened, refer to Averie's original recipe)
  • 2 Tablespoons brewed coffee (I used instant)
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups fun size Caramal Apple Milky Way, cut into quarters
  • 1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup maple pumpkin butter
  • sprinkle of sea salt, to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 350.
  2. Mix the butter with the egg, sugar, cocoa, coffee, and vanilla until combined.  (The butter should be melted but cooled, to avoid scrambled egg.)
  3. Add flour, cinnamon and baking soda, mix until combined.  Reserve about 2/3 cup of the dough.
  4. In a prepared pan, gently press the unreserved dough evenly on the bottom.
  5. Add the Milky Ways in an even layer on top of the dough.
  6. Dot the reserved dough on top of the Milky Way layer.  You want it sort of crumbled on, not a complete 'crust'.
  7. Pour the sweetened condensed milk slowly over the top.  Drizzle the pumpkin butter over this.  Sprinkle sea salt, if desired.
  8. Bake for about 30 minutes.  The middle will still jiggle, but the edges should appear done.
  9. Allow the bars to cool completely in the pan, then cut into squares.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Movie Madness Monday: Austenland

In an exciting twist, I actually have an in-theaters movie to review this week!  I went up north to Regal Arbor, where the small, independent films often hide out when they first come to Austin, to see 'Austenland'.

I love Jane Austen, and I like Keri Russell and JJ Feild (he's already been an Austen hero in 'Northanger Abbey'), so it already had more going for it than a lot of movies playing in theaters closer to me.  Plus, it made a trip to Yogurtland for frozen yogurt almost mandatory.

I would describe the movie as cute, but not fully realized.  I think there were a lot of things that could have been explored further that were left on the surface and gave the plot a slightly jarring effect.  There are some character motivations and plot developments that couldn't help but remind me of some of the wisdom Emma Thompson imparted in the DVD commentary of 'Sense & Sensibility' about the difficulties of writing a script.  I almost wanted to go into the editing room and see if I could piece this together a little differently.

For instance, they really sped through the set up of Russell's character as a rabid fan whose love of Darcy precludes any real-life romance.  I think in doing that they kind of misjudged the balance between making her a sympathetic kind of pathetic and a possibly disturbed kind of pathetic.  And allusions to her dating past range from just the general sadness of being thirty and single to the random appearance of an ex-boyfriend who is clearly at the very least emotionally abusive.  It just struck a chord too realistic for the fantasy of romantic comedy.

Once they make it to the titular Austenland, there's obviously a lot of poking fun at the immersive fantasy vacation.  Sometimes it's funny, sometimes it's ridiculous.  And sometimes, I'm not sure that the filmmakers were in on the joke.  One thing that irked me as a too-picky-person: they seem to have mistaken Austen for Dickens in the use of surnames to signify personality, with platinum guests earning names like 'Charming' while poor little copper package Jane is Miss Erstwhile.  Unless I missed the hidden meaning of Bennett, last names tend to just be last names for Austen heroines.

Overall, though, it was a sweet movie.  Silly, of course, but it was a romantic comedy that I wouldn't mind seeing again on Netflix.  And I love the vignette for the closing credits, no criticism there.

For more madness of the movie variety, go to Amaryllis Musings.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Inspiration Saturday: Stopping in to rove

I can never just 'stop in' to a yarn store.  I have to browse the shelves, and I will inevitably find something I cannot leave behind.  I have accepted this fate, and no longer attempt to thwart it.

So when I needed to 'stop in' to Gauge today to pick up a passport for this year's Yarn Crawl (next month, yay!), I had pretty much accepted that I was going to leave with more than my little booklet granting me passage to eleven local yarn stores in the hill country.  But I admit, I never suspected that I would find these.

Look at them, so unassuming, pretending that they aren't a very exciting new development in my spinning world.  I didn't even know Malabrigo made roving!  Clearly I am not psychically in tune enough with the fiber world.  But having spotted it, I couldn't turn away.  Malabrigo yarn is so soft and squishy, I need to try see if my own Malabrigo handspun will have the same gorgeous texture.

There was also a gray-purple colorway there when I first saw this, but my oohs and aahs brought the attention of another crafter (who I actually know from work), and she bought them.  But that's okay, because I still took these two:

They're called Nube; the gray on the left is Plomo, and the red is Cereza.  I'm not sure, but part of me wants to either spin or knit at least some of them together.  They're both just so very...gothic.  Basic, almost elemental colors, but hand dyed with such rich, deep shades that they are anything but simple.  This is why every time I say the word 'Malabrigo', the M has at least two syllables.

This is all bringing me closer and closer to the conclusion that I need a wheel.  At the very least, I need to give one a serious demo.  Because I'm accumulating a stash of fiber that cannot support my lack of speed with a spindle.  I love my spindle, but I would love to be able to spin and ply one big skein, and at a greater rate of return on craft time invested.

Hmm, you know what this means, don't you?  I'm going to have to stop in at Yarnorama...

For more inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

WIP Wednesday: The right kind of wrong

My inner goody-two-shoes tells me it's 'wrong' to cast on a new project before casting off an old one.  But this weekend, I just couldn't help myself.  I made a little incremental progress with both my plying and my cardigan, but both projects are so big that spending 30 minutes never feels like it yields much.

So I decided to dive into a quick project that I knew I was going to have to complete in the near future anyway, a pair of dishcloths for an LYS holiday party.  Obviously, I'm using 'near' in relative terms.  Last year I whipped up some love-ly lace dishcloths, and this year I had another stitch I wanted to try.  Instead of hearts, bricks!

My mom and I bought the yarn earlier this year when Yarn Barn appeared to be going out of business, a trio of Cascade Ultra Pima Fine in gray, red, and yellow.  The gray is for the 'grout' and then I'll have red bricks (the classic) and yellow bricks (follow the yellow brick road!), and there will be plenty left over for Mom to make her pair in whatever pattern and color combo she wants.

Here is the red brick, featured with my current reading material, Aimee Bender's 'Willful Creatures':

Here's where I get to feel like a finisher, because I did finish reading 'Freedom' over the weekend (loved it), and I actually also finished this dishcloth already.  I'm really enjoying the stitch, it's easy but effective, and the yarn has rich colors and a soft feel that you don't always get with cotton.  And you can put in a few hours' worth of crafting time and have a finished object.  Or in this case, half a finished object, since these are like a pair of socks.

Next, I started the yellow brick.  It has the honor of being photographed with something else that's so wrong it's right:

Kerbey Lane pancakes!  But these are even more deliciously evil than usual.  The top pancake in the short stack is the weekly special, called The Elvis.  It's got banana and bacon in the batter, and a peanut butter topping on the side there.  Adding to the wrong factor is the fact that I went to a lunch 'n learn about cholesterol today. But hey, I not only ran this afternoon, I took a spin class.

Right and wrong, it's a delicate balance.

For more WIP Wednesday posts this week, go to Tami's Amis.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Cubicle kitchen: Biscoiti de Maizana Bites

I'm not planning on going on any job interviews any time soon, but I'm wondering if I could use my experience with baking as an answer when I'm asked about my ability to take direction, but also make things my own and problem solve on the fly.  This was one of those recipes that had me showing off those skills.  I'm not sure if I'll ever be able to use them as a business asset, but they did result in some tasty, gluten-free treats.

Remember the package I made for the Gilmore Girls swap?  And the corn starch pin cushion?  Well, I still have the bag of corn starch that came from that box, as well as at least one other box already sitting in the pantry. The idea of using it a tablespoon at a time just seemed too long and laborious for my impatient mind, so I searched for recipes that use a more substantial amount.

These cookies are apparently a Brazilian sweet staple.  There were a few variations out there using a ratio of corn starch to flour, but I figured since I was using so much of something non-gluten, I might as well go all the way and choose one that had no flour.  That would satisfy my trainer and allow a few other people who are usually left out to sample my treats.  There are plenty of things which can be made gluten-free, but because my pantry is just not diverse enough to have all of the various gluten-free flours that other recipes reference, I need a recipe that is gluten-free without using specialty ingredients.  Gluten-free by default, not design.

So there I was, with the best of intentions, cookie dough all prepared and ready to start rolling balls and get them in the oven.  The dough wasn't quite firm enough to roll, so I spooned it onto the parchment paper in well-separated mounds.  After a few minutes, though, the mounds had melted into a thin layer of batter covering the sheet.

Oh no!  What to do?

I had suspected that this might happen, which is why I started with just one sheet, and had already taken out my mini-muffin tins with my plan B in mind.  I spooned the rest of the dough into the tins, no papers, just sprayed with non-stick, and baked them until I thought they were about done.  Meanwhile, I started cutting out circles from the thin sheet of cookie I had, and tasting the scraps to make sure this melty cookie was worth the effort.

It so was.  These have an almost marshmallow taste to them, and although they have the slightest bit of corn starchy aftertaste to them, I still found them to be pretty delicious and very sweet.  I ate so many scraps I spent the rest of the afternoon on a sugar high, which was further fueled a cup of coffee (the sweetness of the cookies pairs really well with that) and the feeling of accomplishment as the cookie bites came out of the mini-muffin tins looking lovely.

Because the remaining batter gave me 16 bites and I always feel like I need more, I made a second batch the next day.  This time I sprinkled in some dark chocolate chips, because like coffee, the slight bitterness of the dark chocolate pairs really well with the sweetness of these cookies.  And also because I had about a cup of chips left over from the Dark Harvest Muffins.  I also melted some of them to sandwich between the cookies I had cut out from my first melted sheet.  I'm also thinking of making these lemon cookies in another version, possibly with a lemon curd center.

So all in all, I think these cookies are a great example of working with the resources you have available, making adjustments when necessary without panicking, and completing a project with results possibly more delicious than anticipated.

If only technical documentation could be so delicious.

Biscoiti de Maizana Bites
Adapted from What's Cooking America: Biscoiti de Maizana

Makes 30 mini-muffin cookie bites

  • 2 cups cornstarch
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup butter, room temperature*
  • About 1 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
*I used 1 stick of butter, and Brummel and Brown for the remaining 1/4 cup

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray your mini-muffin trays with nonstick spray.
  2. Mix cornstarch, sugar, egg, vanilla extract, and butter until well combined.  If adding chocolate chips, fold in. Let the dough sit approximately 10 to 15 minutes.
  3. Drop a tablespoon of dough into each mini-muffin cup.  If adding chocolate chips, you can add a few on top as well.
  4. Bake the cookies on the center rack of the oven for approximately 7 to 10 minutes depending on the size of your cookies. Remove from oven.
  5. Let cookies cool slightly before removing from the tray.  They will be very fragile, so be gentle.

          Monday, September 9, 2013

          Movie Madness Monday: A League of Their Own

          I'm not sure exactly how I came to be such a sports fan in my 20s, it's not something I would ever have expected based on all of my previous years of apathy outside of tennis and international soccer.  Now I'm practically rabid at the start of the college and professional football seasons while in deep denial of the end of the summer tennis season.  (Go Nadal!)

          One sport that I've still maintained just an outside interest in is baseball.  I played softball when I was younger, went to a single Mets game via a college excursion, and have kept tabs on the Texas Rangers as they've come tantalizingly close to winning the World Series twice in a row.  I could also maintain a fluent conversation in some of the larger talking points of the sport due to my high intake of ESPN.  But it's safe to say that I love this movie about baseball more than I love baseball itself.

          I can quote 'A League of their Own' the way some people can rattle of statistics memorized from the back of a player's trading card.  My best friend owned this movie when I was a kid, so it was often our entertainment of choice.  It's not on Netflix Instant, but it is certainly on DVD and in my collection now.

          This is one of the great examples of the sports movie genre, telling the story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League which was started in an attempt to keep raking in ticket sales while all of the male players were off fighting in World War Two.  So, again, you've got some friendly feminism, and there's even a little random knitting thrown in.  It was the 40s, after all, and these athletes also had to be domestic goddesses.

          From the dairy farm where the Hinson sisters are recruited to the climactic World Series, there is some drama involved here, but the best parts are the comedy.  In fact, I could easily just watch the amazing middle of this movie and ignore the end.  I'm not going to spoil the ending for anyone who hasn't seen it yet.  But for those who have, it's nice to know that I'm not the only one who feels the way that this Entertainment Weekly writer does.

          Aside from that, though, this is one of those perfect, easy-to-watch movies that you can watch any time, and it doesn't matter whether you pop it into the DVD player or catch it halfway through on TV, you'll get sucked in.  You know how some movies you need to be in a particular kind of headspace for?  This one is pretty much suited for all moods.

          For more movie reviews, go to Amaryllis Musings.

          Saturday, September 7, 2013

          Inspiration Saturday: All pumpkins are great, Charlie Brown

          I thought I was the only one using the start of the school year as an excuse to declare it to be the fall season and start baking with pumpkin.  Maybe other bloggers live in climates where the weather isn't quite as counterintuitive to that reasoning, but the power of pumpkin seems to be stronger than I anticipated.  I've been seeing delicious recipes pop up on my feedly in the past few weeks, I can only hope that my Dark Harvest Muffins hold their own in this culinary company.

          I don't like to repeat myself too much in my office treats, so I can't run into my kitchen and make all of these pumpkin goodies right now, but I'm saving them away for later, and passing them along to you in communal temptation:
          • Girlichef: Pumpkin Cheesecake Popsicles: These straddle the line between summer and fall perfectly, and sound so delicious.  I'm tempted to tweak her basic recipe and put it into my ice cream maker for myself.
          • Something Swanky: Pumpkin Nutella Poke Cake: Oh, that's not fair.  Combining the power of pumpkin with the addiction that is Nutella, and then pouring on sweetened condensed milk.  I don't know if I can make poke cupcakes, because full-sized cake can be a serving issue at work, but if it comes down to it, maybe this could be done as a non-pie Thanksgiving dessert.  Because the dessert table needs diversity.
          • Very Best Baking: Autumn-Spiced Pumpkin Shortbread: When I think of shortbread, I think of a pretty dry crumb, so I would stick to the smaller amount of pumpkin suggested.  But I am intrigued by the idea.
          • Sally's Baking Addiction: Mini Cinnamon Sugar Pumpkin Muffins: These look adorable, and after reading her recipe for Glazed Chocolate Donut Holes, I'm pretty sure I could just roll the muffins completely in the cinnamon sugar coating and call them donut holes as well.  Or make the glaze with cinnamon.  I can't get over how perfect donut holes would be for a coffee klatch, so it's likely that I'll make some form of these this year.
          I've also already found and bought some pumpkin ice cream and pumpkin yogurt.  Think I'll be sick of it by Thanksgiving?  Don't bet on it.

          For more inspiration, go to Woolen Diversions.

          Wednesday, September 4, 2013

          WIP Wednesday: The labors of Labor Day weekend

          Holiday Mondays are the gift that keeps on giving, because after the long weekend, you get a short work week.  I'm so glad it's Wednesday already, and I'm ready for another weekend, so I can keep working on my WIPs and hopefully turn some of them into FOs for you.

          I continued to make progress on my crafting while watching tennis and college football over the weekend.  I've added another few inches to the sleeve of my cardigan.  Part of me is ready to get these pieces done and move onto the next phase, but part of me is also just a little scared of the blocking and sewing and picking up stitches for the ruffle and adding beads and generally making something more like a finished garment than I've ever made before.  But mostly I'm ready to get it done.

          If I'm really lucky, this weekend as I'm blocking my cardigan I'll also be washing and drying the fifth and final cop in my spinning.  Then I can continue to daydream about getting myself a spinning wheel, having put in the slow yards on a spindle and proven that, yes, this spinning thing is a craft that I'm sticking with.

          From that relatively new way of wiling away the hours to an old favorite, I'm really enjoying Jonathan Franzen's 'Freedom'.  Part of the joy of my three-day weekend was having the extra night that I could stay up in bed and keep turning the pages.  I'm now at 414, and I have no idea where the Berglunds are going to end up in the next hundred or so pages.  I'm going to guess that it's not happily ever after.  Because this is not a fairy tale story, there aren't really any heroes.  But each character has moments where I can sympathize with them.  And then they do something stupid and I shake my head into the book as if they could heed my warnings.  All in all, a dollar well-spent at Half Price Books.

          Another 'project' I have is a swap that I'm moderating over on Ravelry.  It's called Alphabet Soup, and the idea is that everyone has to theme their packages around a certain letter.  Like, say I was assigned the letter G, I could send Goldfish crackers, green yarn, a Garden Pond get the idea.  I've just spent most of tonight matching people up, assigning them letters, and letting them know the results so that they can start spoiling.  So that's also a work in progress, I think.

          Whew, with all of that, no wonder I'm ready for the weekend again!  For more WIP Wednesday posts, go to Tami's Amis.

          Tuesday, September 3, 2013

          Cubicle kitchen: Dark Harvest Muffins

          Last week was all about back to school, with my movie review and inspiration.  It was also the main reasoning behind the baked good I brought in for klatch.  The logic was this: the start of the school year means the end of summer, which means the start of fall, which means that I get to use all of the warm spice flavors of fall that I love.

          Not that there's any law against pumpkin and cinnamon in the springtime, but it makes me self-conscious to shirk the cultural norms like that.  But now I need not fear the stares, pointing and snickering of my paranoid imagination, because even though we're still hitting triple digit highs, there is at least one way in which it's beginning to feel a lot like fall.  So it can also taste like it.

          So there's my excuse for baking them.  And because I specialize in getting people to eat treats, here are just a few of the healthy excuses for eating them:
          • Hey, the flour is whole wheat, that's good for me, right?
          • Corn meal means there's not as much of that evil gluten.
          • Those dark chocolate chips are are like little bites of antioxidant magic.
          • Come on, it's pumpkin.  You got your vitamins, your fiber, and bonus antioxidants to boot.
          • The mini ones are so small, you can have two!

          Dark Harvest Muffins
          Recipe from PBS Kitchen Explorers: Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Corn Muffins

          My notes:
          • I used Hershey's Special Dark Chocolate Chips, and what I would call a generous cup (more like 1 1/4-1/2)
          • This made 56 mini-muffins and a dozen regular-sized muffins
          • The mini-muffins take about 10-12 minutes in the oven.
          • If you care about how your muffins look, you'll want to scoop them prettily into the paper cups, because they won't rise into a lovely cupcake-like mound on their own.  They'll still be yummy, though.