From Transition to Discovery

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At the beginning of each new year, I try to think of a word to describe the year ahead. The word is based on plans and hopes that I have for the next 365 (or 366) days to come. I try to keep it simple and broad, and so far, I’ve been fairly accurate in my predictions.

2013 was the year of “travel”–a year when I went to Europe twice (for fun), Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania once (for work), Oklahoma City, Oklahoma once (for academic/work reasons), and New York City once (for Christmas fun)!

2014 was the year of “transition”–the first year of my life since I was four years old that I was not a student in some form or fashion (what a HUGE transition that was). It was a year in which I switched jobs, picked up side jobs, and seriously questioned what I really want in a career. It was the year that I finally moved away from Tennessee, where I was born, to one of my favorite cities–Chicago. It was the year that we went from a three-dog family to a two-dog family due to unforeseen health problems. Not all of the transitions have been happy, easy, or welcome, but many of them were. It’s been a difficult year for several reasons, but I am so glad that this year happened. It has completely changed the trajectory of my life, and 98% of my being is grateful for it. (The other 2% will forever curse the universe for taking my dog Ruby away–there are some things I just cannot abide, much like The Dude when his rug was stolen.)

Now that 2014 is ending, I feel like the major transitions in my life are beginning to equalize and create a balance. Things don’t seem quite so chaotic anymore, for the first time in many years, actually. This has made me seriously ponder what the word for 2015 should be.

After much deliberation and consultation with my other half (Sam), I have determined that 2015 shall be the year of “discovery.” Discovery of our new city, discovery of what I really want out of life (personally, professionally, spiritually), discovery of new cities through travel (hopefully), discovery of new friends and family, and discovery of all the simple, small pleasures of life that I often overlook.

That now leads to my New Year’s resolution. I have just one–to be more present. I want to fully enjoy the moment, every moment, and not be so preoccupied with past events and future worries. This is going to be really difficult for me because I am a worrier by nature, and my anxiety can get the best of me. I find inspiration for being “in the moment” all over Chicago now though. I find it in the serenity and the power of the lake, the bustle of the streets, the looming buildings and beautiful architecture, and in the art (sometimes unconventional) that fills the city.

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Whenever I find myself drifting away from my resolution, I’ll keep this graffiti that I saw in an underpass on the way to Lincoln Park in mind. That’s all my anxiety is, anyway–being afraid to be happy. I’m going to take a cue from my dogs and try to enjoy every little thing life has to offer while still remembering that life is silly and absurd and not to be taken too seriously.

So, here’s to making 2015 the best that it can be, and to making the move from transition to discovery with Sam, Missy, and Cosmo by my side. Happy New Year, everyone!

Historic Holiday Eats – Syllabub “from the Cow”

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Hello all! I hope you have survived the major holidays thus far happily and/or in one piece. We do still have one more pretty big holiday this coming week though, and that is New Year’s Eve/Day (also any lingering Christmas/other holiday events as well)! What better way to celebrate the New Year than with alcohol? That is why I saved the second syllabub recipe in American Cookery for this week. This one is meant to be a drink rather than a whipped topping, like the first syllabub I made a few weeks ago, and it has plenty of really good stuff in it for a winter party!

“To make a fine Syllabub from the Cow,” you must:

Syllabub from a Cow

 

“Sweeten a quart of cyder with double refined sugar, grate nutmeg into it, then milk your cow into your liquor, when you have thus added what quantity of milk you think proper, pour half a pint or more, in proportion to the quantity of syllabub you make, of the sweetest cream you can get all over it.”

This recipe is interesting for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that it requires a cow. Obviously, I do not live on a farm in the year 1798 (like the author of this cookbook did), so I do not have ready access to a cow for milking straight into my liquor. No worries though–I just went to the store and bought whole milk to make up for it. I know it’s not the same, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. Also, this is one of the more “loosey goosey” recipes as far as measurements go, but I managed to make it work and turn it into a nice drink. Here’s how:

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The ingredients for the syllabub: 3 12 oz. bottles of Angry Orchard Traditional Dry apple cider/whatever cider you prefer (3 bottles is slightly more than a quart, 4 cups, but as I see it, a few ounces more cider never hurt anybody), a pint of heavy whipping cream, 1 1/2 cups of whole milk, 2 heaping teaspoons of nutmeg, 1/2 cup of sugar for sweetening the cider, and 4 tablespoons of sugar for sweetening the cream.

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First, I poured the bottles of cider into a bowl and added the 1/2 cup of sugar. It fizzed immediately (which was pretty cool to watch), and I whisked the two together until the sugar dissolved.

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I then whisked in two heaping teaspoons of nutmeg. You could also grate an entire nutmeg into the mixture, but I had the pre-ground nutmeg on hand already. (I used this much nutmeg because most other recipes for syllabub–from the period and from today–call for an entire grated nutmeg.)

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Next, I added as much milk as I thought proper to the cider/sugar/nutmeg mixture, which was 1 1/2 cups.

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I personally love the fact that this recipe calls for “the sweetest cream as you can get,” so I decided to sweeten the pint of heavy whipping cream with 4 tablespoons of sugar in my stand mixer. 

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I beat the sugar and cream on medium speed for about 3 minutes just to get it combined and to make the mixture thick and frothy (but not actually whipped).

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I then added my sweet cream (nearly the whole pint) to the milk/cider/nutmeg/sugar mixture, and I whisked it until it was all combined. It looked so pretty and smelled even better!

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Lastly, I poured the syllabub into glasses for my husband and I to try. The taste was sweet, spicy (in a winter-like way), and very slightly tart (from the apple flavor). I also loved the frothy look and texture. Be sure to refrigerate this if you’re not serving it immediately.

When I first began this recipe, I was not expecting to like the outcome. I’m not a big milk fan (part of the reason why I’m so short, I’m sure), and I just didn’t know if cider, milk, and cream would work together. I was pleasantly surprised, however! The end result was a sweet, frothy, alcoholic beverage that smelled and tasted of all things fun about wintertime.

In short, if you like eggnog, you’ll like syllabub “from the cow.” Or, if you don’t like eggnog, maybe the difference in flavor and texture of this syllabub will appeal to you. Either way, just try it! Definitely give it a go this winter, especially if you have any events coming up for New Year’s week!

Have fun and enjoy the rest of 2014, everyone!

 

12th Day of Christmas Movies – A Christmas Story

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Merry Christmas everyone! On this most joyous (or aggravating–however you’re spending it) day, I waited to discuss the pinnacle of all Christmas films. That is to say, I saved A Christmas Story just for today.

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Released in 1983, A Christmas Story made its way into mainstream popular culture immediately. The television station TBS shows it for 24 hours straight from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, people pay heaps of money to stay in the “Christmas Story House” every year, and quotes from little Ralphie can be heard from nearly every mouth during the holiday season. While I still like Elf more, A Christmas Story is my husband’s favorite film, and since it is so ingrained in our culture, I knew I had to talk about it on Christmas Day!

A Christmas Story follows the story of Ralphie Parker, a little boy whose greatest wish is to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, he drops subtle and not-so-subtle hints to his parents, Santa, and even his third grade teacher about his Christmas wish. The response every time? “You’ll shoot your eye out.” How deflating it is to hear that repeatedly (no matter how true it may be). Ralphie, his brother, his friends, and his parents encounter all sorts of adventures leading up to and on Christmas Day, all of which have become bastions of popular memory. All of this makes A Christmas Story that much more lovable and endearing, so make sure to turn on your TV and catch it before Christmas is over!

11th Day of Christmas Movies – Eyes Wide Shut

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Merry Christmas Eve, all! I hope you all are having a wonderful time today. In honor of this most giving holiday, I present to you a film that continues to bear gifts with each subsequent viewing–Eyes Wide Shut.

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Eyes Wide Shut, released in 1999, was Stanley Kubrick’s last film before his death. He truly went out at the top of his game, if I do say so myself. This film is at once real and surreal, making the viewer ponder, evaluate, and reevaluate every single scene. It is purely brilliant, and it is also set during the Christmas season. Christmas lights provide a blinding luminosity or an eerie glow in the background of nearly every scene of the film, making everything have a dream-like feeling, which is perfect for a film based on the idea that one’s dreams and fantasies can haunt, even ruin, your everyday life.

Dr. William (Tom Cruise) and Mrs. Alice Harford (Nicole Kidman) live in Manhattan, enjoying their wealthy lifestyle and wealthy friends. They attend a Christmas party at the home of one of Bill’s patients, both of them flirting with other people, which leads to a somewhat-heated, half-naked discussion later that evening while smoking pot. Alice admits to Bill that she thought about cheating on him once during said discussion, creating a very tense moment of Tom Cruise staring…straight into your soul. Just when she’s done admitting her feelings, the phone rings. That happens a lot in this film. Whenever there is a pivotal moment, the phone rings. It distracts Bill from what he just heard or saw. At first, the calls seem to be a sort of saving grace–they get him out of uncomfortable or dangerous situations. Later, the phone calls turn into an all-out nuisance to him, but they are what moves the plot along throughout the entire movie. (Genius!) I won’t give away the entirety of what happens next, but Bill does end up at a cult-like orgy and considers cheating on his wife several times throughout the course of one evening. He doesn’t do it though. In the end, both he and Alice love each other too much to be unfaithful.

Eyes Wide Shut is a true roller coaster of a film that tells what most people call a “psycho-sexual” story of one man’s night out–a night that brings him face to face with his morals and the reality of his marriage. From a line like “Don’t you think one of the charms of marriage is that it makes deception a necessity for both parties?” to the discussion between Alice and Bill at the end of the film in the middle of a crowded toy store right before Christmas: “I do love you and you know there is something very important we need to do as soon as possible.” “What’s that?” “Fuck,” this film will take you on a journey that you don’t want to miss.

 

Every time I watch Eyes Wide Shut, I discover new things about it that I never noticed in previous viewings–something that Stanley Kubrick was very, very good at in his films. If you want a true cinematic adventure that will make you laugh, gasp, cringe, and say “WTF?”–you need to watch Eyes Wide Shut, a true “Christmas classic.”

10th Day of Christmas Movies – Step Brothers

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Today’s film is another one that does not appear to be very Christmas-y on its surface, but, to me, it is a perfect film to watch during the holiday season (that just so happens to have a key scene take place at Christmas!). This movie is none other than Step Brothers.

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Starring Will Ferrell as Brennan Duff and John C. Reilly as Dale Doback (along with a slew of many more talented comedians), Step Brothers focuses on the story of two 40-year-olds who still live with their parents, and those parents end up getting married. When Brennan and his mother move in with Dale and his father, the situation is very tense at first. However, the new stepbrothers quickly learn that they are, in fact, made for each other. They are both immature 12-year-olds stuck in older bodies, and they bond over Shark Week and a hatred for Brennan’s younger brother Derek (Adam Scott), along with many other key factors. Their antics put a strain on their parents’ marriage though, and by Christmastime, the couple decides to divorce. When they announce this at the dinner table, Dale and Brennan burst into tears and begin to blame each other for the separation. After spending some time apart actually acting like adults following the divorce, the entire family ends up reunited at “The Fucking Catalina Wine Mixer,” which is just as magical as it sounds. After some shenanigans, everyone ends up coming together and being happy again. The film ends one year later at the next family Christmas, which goes a lot better than the previous year to say the least.

The holidays are often a stressful time for so many people, and sometimes it’s good to just blow off steam and have a good laugh at some old fashioned family dysfunction. That is exactly what Step Brothers does, and that is exactly why I’ve already watched it this season!

9th Day of Christmas Movies – Edward Scissorhands

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Today I’d like to talk about a movie that, while not always thought of as a “Christmas” movie, fits in perfectly with the season (and has a climatic scene that takes place on Christmas!). That movie is Edward Scissorhands.

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Edward (Johnny Depp) is a creation of a mad scientist who died before he could properly fit his experiment with a set of hands. In their place are large, sharp scissors. Edward lives alone until one day he is visited by a kind Avon saleslady named Peg (Dianne West), who decides to take Edward to her home. Peg’s daughter Kim (Winona Ryder) and Edward eventually fall in love after some initial hesitation.

Throughout the film, we learn that the silent Edward is quite adept at trimming hedges, cutting hair, and being kind to no end. Edward becomes very popular around town until one fateful night (Christmas) when that all changes. Edward ends up killing Kim’s ex-boyfriend Jim in a fight after Edward was chased back to his mansion on the hill, and Kim tells everyone that Edward died as well so that he can live in peace once again. Kim never saw Edward again after that, but every year, Edward carves ice sculptures on his hill to create snow at Christmas for her.

Edward Scissorhands is touching, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking all at once. That makes for a great film to watch during the holiday season, when we’re all supposed to be a little more thoughtful and kind.