08 November 2007

On the road again...

It seems that my fella has launched himself and his band into the 21st century, and started a blog of their current, 22-hour-old tour. Congratulations, honey.

I'll be checking in on the shenanigans and rampant beard growth. Y'all should too.

Speaking of rampant beard growth, Tal and I saw Band of Horses at Toad's Place in New Haven. Man, those guys have some serious beards (see left). Also, they kicked ass. I wish they had more than an hour of material to play.

05 November 2007

Going to the chapel...

Here by popular demand is a picture of the finished wedding cake. It's a butter cake with raspberry filling and Swiss meringue buttercream icing, covered in vanilla-flavored ivory fondant.

The ribbons aren't edible or anything... my decorating skills aren't very advanced.
The wedding itself was lovely. The groom walked down the aisle to an acoustic version of Fugazi's "Waiting Room" played by his groomsmen.
This is a picture of me at the reception, taken by Bridget:

camera 272

....clearly after a glass or two of champagne.

The cake went over very well and good times were had by all.

Next project, two cakes for a CD release party/art show. One of them has to be vegan. So that'll be an interesting challenge.

29 September 2007

If I knew you were coming, I'd have baked a cake.

Oh, there is nothing better than spending the whole afternoon in the kitchen on a breezy fall day.

I have recently taken on the assignment of baking a wedding cake for a friend from work. Like, a proper one. With tiers and whatnot.

I expect I was asked to undertake this sort of thing due to the success of a cake I baked for another work friend, Juliana, who was married this summer. Observe:

It's the one in the center. I used the red velvet recipe from the NYT, which was actually from Elisa Strauss's (a fellow Vassar girl, whom I've met and who's lovely) Confetti Cakes cookbook. Let me tell you, it is divine. Better than (and I hate to draw lines in the buttercream here) the Cake Man Raven's Red Velvet (sorry, Raven, more cocoa makes it better). The cake was three layers, a deep red with a perfect soft texture and moist crumb. My mother backseat-iced the cake, and had the brilliant idea of decorating with nasturtium flowers, so it turned out beautifully.

Anyway, it was pretty and delicious, if I may be so bold, and I'm sure that combined with my willingness to bake for the sheer joy of focusing deeply on a rather precise task, led to Rosamund putting aside my inexperience and asking for me to think about baking up a wedding cake all proper-like. Think about it? I confess, I spent a good half hour in the wedding section of the bookstore, flipping through photos of cakes and I was sold. The precision involved in putting together a tiered cake, icing it, AND covering it with fondant (so smooth and pretty!) is almost more exciting than I can handle.

Today I endeavored to experiment a bit with a cake recipe. I haven't found a published recipe that stirs me, so I kind of tinkered with some existing ones. I'll elaborate more on the details of this experiment once I cut into the thing and eat it, but until then, here's the trial cake, just out of the oven:

The silvery band wrapped around the pan somehow makes the cake rise straight and remain relatively flush on top when you pull it out of the oven. I have no idea how, but I'm loving it (though it does mean fewer cake scraps to eat whilst icing). Also, I got a bottle of "Cake Release" from A.C. Moore (a wonderful and slightly terrifying store), which appears to be made of liquid genius, as the cake popped right out of the pan with no fuss and no leavin's to speak of.

Stay tuned for more photos as the practice cake and the real deal progress.

26 September 2007

Baby, you can conjugate me all night long.

I was alerted to the following music video, T-Pain's "I Like the Bartender" by Mark, who is very smart and certainly up on all the hottest new tracks. OK, so it's probably not new. But it's still awesome.

The words that speak to me most? "She made us drinks to drink. We drunk 'em, got drunk."

I expect, if pressed, young Tal would concur that dating me is very similar, glamour-wise. I wear short-shorts whilst pouring beers (it helps me show off the sweet bruises from walking into the beer cooler and knocking heavy ice buckets into myself). Also, he keeps it real by drinking triple shots of Patròn with lime. In fact, I think I might start calling him T-Pain.

In other bar news, the fall beers are in.

From our taps, I enjoy:

- Pennichuck's Big O. Nice malty flavor as ever, with a certain sweetness I'd forgotten about since last year.

- Long Trail's Harvest. Delicious, smooth, and a gorgeous dark color.

I also like:

- Brooklyn's Oktoberfest and Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale.

Top of my list to try is Red Hook's Late Harvest (while we're at it, let's enjoy the bartender character on their website. Look how he polishes glasses and points cheerily at imaginary customers out in cyberspace!)

I do not enjoy: Peak Organic Pale Ale. OK, I know it's not a fall beer, but I drank a few yesterday, and I must say, it smells suspiciously of (bad) pot. Also, when it repeats, it tastes of pot. Very weird. And kind of fulfilling people's notion that organic beers are made by stoner hippies on communes in Vermont.

27 August 2007

I am in the business of breaking promises, jaws.

I broke my promise to Josh's butt (see previous entry), and for that I am sincerely sorry. However, it's not because I've been sitting around eating bonbons and wathching soap operas. No indeed. My summer has been chock-full of excitment since I returned from Scotland. I ventured north to Vermont to see a kickass Wilco show with my fella, witnessed some nuptials, dealt with car and cat repairs, and endured some harassment with the local constabulary.

Somehow I managed to find time for all of the above in between many many fun though occasionally stressful bartending shifts.

One of the downsides of tending bar in a place with no public transport is that you have to be extremely careful about how much you serve people. I am legally responsible for every person who has the pleasure to quaff a pint in my bar (we now have Boddington's on tap, btw... very exciting). This, because I'm compulsively responsible when it comes to jobs, can take it's toll and I get nasty and suspicious of nearly everyone who bellys up to the bar. I card people, shut people off, and this summer marked the first time I took away someone's pint (THAT was really not fun... and I didn't serve it to her in the first place, and boy did she have some mean thoughts to share with me). If you couldn't tell already, you can purchase alcohol in New Hampshire, you can drink it, but you CANNOT be drunk. I'm not a doctor or anything, but I have yet to work out the math on that. If any of y'all figure it out, I'd be happy to hear your thoughts so that I might explain it to surly customers who are hell-bent on getting visibly wasted in my presence.

I haven't yet thrown someone out of the bar, but I have a feeling that that's my next step and then I'll really be the tough broad slinging pints in the neighborhood bar. I'll let you know how that goes.

But enough boring nonsense about me not wanting some drunk asshole sending me to jail (or getting my broke ass fined). The benefit of my job is that I get to see lots of live music. Of course, I'm experiencing a fair number of bands well outside of my usual tastes, but it's all part of that potpurri of small music venues.

A couple of weeks ago, I had the miraculous fortune of bartending during a show by SeepeopleS (weird name, I know). Miraculous because we don't tend to get indie rock bands at Harlow's. They're from Asheville, North Tobylina, and they're pretty great. Please enjoy the following musical video:

Not too shabby atall. They're also very nice guys with decent taste in beer. And their live show kicks ass.

I think that brings me mostly up to date. Soon I'll be posting about my fall efforts in the kitchen (now that it's not hot, I don't feel bad turning on the oven), including my experiences with home canning. Wooo!

15 July 2007

...I would walk five hundred miles...

Well, it took me a long time, but for the sake of Josh's butt, I have uploaded a metric shit-ton (or, in this case, tonne) of photos from my shenanigans abroad in Scotland.

Here is photographic evidence that Scotland has nice weather on occasion. This particular photo was taken looking down Bridget's street toward the sea.

A view of St. Andrews from the beach. We went walking along the beach on a nice (um... not rainy) afternoon. There were loads of washed-up dead jellyfish. I did not take pictures of those because they are gross and the view of St. Andrews is pretty. So there.

This is "The Old Course," and grown men who are devotees of the game called "golf" have been known to weep in its presence.

The day after I arrived in Scotland, we rented a very small car and set off on a whirlwind driving tour of the country. The little Ford KA served us well, from Loch Lommond, to Oban, to Inverness and Dalwhinnie.

Here is Loch Lommond, a very nice loch indeed.

This is me, driving. On the left side of the road, seated on the left side of the car, shifting gears with my left hand. It took a little getting used to, but I'm pleased to report I did not kill us or frighten any natives. I did, however, have a run-in with a surly motorcyclist who expected me to drive half in the other lane so he could get by me on the right. Instead, I simply changed lanes a short time after he came screaming up behind me, and he treated me to some colorful language yelled through my window whilst driving at high speeds on the A9.

Here is the view of the harbor in Oban, a really beautiful town on the west coast of Scotland.

We drove all day long the first day and elected to stay in Oban that night. We had a nice dinner and some local beers, and since it was still light out at about 9:30pm, we elected to take a walk towards the outskirts of town. We came upon a ruined castle that was apparently on private property, though we found a gate standing ajar and scrambled up a hill to get a closer look.

This is the wall below the castle, where we found the "no castle access" sign. Suckers.

Here's the castle from up close.

A pretty stone cross.

The pretty stone cross made me blurry.

A picture of we two scofflaws, upon breaching the castle wall and walking around inside. Bridget would be the tan one. I'm so pale, I can be seen from space.

The castle from the road below.
Here's our hostel, which had a lovely view of the water. It was my first dormitory hostel experience. We slept on slabs of concrete and listened to a woman snoring like a diesel engine.

On the second day of our power tour of Scotland, we had absolutely breathtaking weather. There really is nothing like Scotland on a sunny day. This is a view of the Great Glen taken from from the Commando Memorial.

Here's a picture of some of the many wild rhodedendron bushes growing along the road.Our first stop that day was Eileen Donan Castle, which you may remember from such films as Entrapment.

It was quite the twisty, turny road out to the castle. Here's Bridget at a tiny gas station where we stopped to mail postcards.Eileen Donan Castle. We felt very naughty indeed because we simply stopped to take pictures and skipped the exhorbidant cost of going inside and looking at furniture recreated to make the place look like the castle would have been back in the day.

Then, we were off to Loch Ness.
....and Urqhart Castle.

Somewhere along the way, we stopped for tea and oatcakes with a fine selection of Scottish cheeses. Mmm. Cheese.
Then, from Loch Ness, we pressed on north to the battlefield at Culloden, outside of the city of Inverness. In case you were curious, Inverness has an extremely stressful number of big roundabouts, and they should consider paring down a bit.

Sadly, the battlefield was in the middle of some lawnmowing and general sprucing-up, so we couldn't get over to the Clan Headstones to have a look. But, this cottage was there the day that marks the end of the Clan system and the Jacobite rebellion.

The battlefield.
A flag that shows where the Jacobites were... or was it the English? Well, we couldn't really walk up close enough to tell.

From Culloden, we took a short jaunt down the road to the Clava Cairns. A really old and pretty pile of rocks put in order by some people who lived a very very long time ago.

This is the road leading to the Cairns. It was frighteningly narrow. On our way back to the main motorway, we were nearly flattened by a "lorry" carrying a bunch of wrecked cars. That was fun.

From Inverness, we were back on the road to St. Andrews. The drive through that southernmost bit of the Highlands was breathtaking.

This picture was taken on a really long highway exit leading to Dalwhinne, which we're pretty sure isn't even a one-horse town. They have the eponymous distillery and that's about it.

All in all, Scotland from a Ford KA is pretty awesome. Sadly, we had to return our little friend, and our trip to Aberdeen to visit Bridget's friend Claire was facillitated by public transport.

It rained like the dickens in Aberdeen, and we spent much of the time in Claire's gorgeous home outside of the city, but I did take some photos of the Gray City from the safety of the art museum's entrance.

Once back in St. Andrews, we managed to rustle up some decent weather for a day trip to Crail, a ridiculously picturesque fishing village a short bus ride away.

Later, on a walk around town, I could not resist the siren song of a touristy phonebooth picture. You'll notice some young hoodlum has scrawled "Gays" on the window. Ah well.

This is the ruined cathedral just down the street from Bridget's apartment.
Butts Wynd. Ha ha. Butts...

This is the ginormous Toyota Landcruiser that my parents rented when they arrived for graduation week. I piloted this vehicle on Scotland's winding roads with the help of a Hertz NeverLost navagatrix.

We went to Falkland Castle...Where people use musical instruments as planters...

...and then to the famous Anstruther Fish Bar, where they make the UK's best fish 'n' chips. The chips were a bit on the soggy side, but the fish was truly amazing. As was the line to the register.
We concluded the trip in Edinburgh, where all four members of my nuclear family (Hayley remained in NH to hold down the fort while the chipmunks relaunched their offensive on the house) stayed in one hotel room. It was not a particularly large hotel room.

This is the enormous monument to Sir Walter Scott.

Downtown Ediburgh near the train station.

I guess I sorta burned out on the photos towards the end of the trip, but rest assured I'll post a few more gems soon (no, really, Josh. I'm turning over a new leaf on this, I swear). It was a fantastic trip, aside from getting very ill on the flight to Boston from New Jersey. Then there was the shock of returning to actual summer weather, as opposed to the 45 degrees we were enduring in Scotland.

Now I'm back to working my tail off behind the bar, and generally avoiding being parked in front of a computer for long stretches.