On New Year’s Resolutions.

The family

I’ve been putting off writing here for weeks.

Yes, I was swamped with freelance before my California trip, and yes, I had a ton of free time during my trip, but a girl needs a break.

wood

Cody -- my family's old, deaf, and grumpy but adorable Lab.

I’ve been home for a few days, and, like every year before this one, the new year creeps up from behind. Before you know it, another one hits you, another resolution appears on your plate, and you find yourself saying, “This year will be my year.”

No joke. I said that one year ago. And, despite a few rough patches, 2012 was, in fact, my year.

Whether you are resolution keeper or dropper, I think everyone has a common goal in mind: make this year even better than the last. Whether we’re trying to lose a few pounds, find a new job, find a new city, or simply just trying to get out of a rut, what matters in the end is this question: what are you actively doing to live a fulfilling life?

Kevin got to decorate his own tree this year. It seems he is just as crafty as I was at that age -- perhaps we have another creative in our family?

My dad makes his own adirondack chairs and grows his own California-native meadow grass. Each tuft has to be grown from seed, which starts with just one blade. This took years.

Fresh eggs made great chocolate souffles for a Christmas dessert.

When I was thirteen, I was an eighth grader at a Catholic school in L.A. We had to apply to the Catholic high schools — like a mini college application process. We took mini SATs, wrote mini personal statements (hand-written, back in the day), and all awaited the thick or thin admissions envelopes in the mail. Naturally, having never really written a personal statement before, I was blinded by all the talk of grades, extracurriculars, and other extraneous number values. And when I asked for help, my dad simplified everything down to this: when it comes down to anything — especially a personal statement — what you’re trying to communicate to the reader is that your goal is to lead the most fulfilling life as possible, and what will help you live that fulfilling life. Numbers aside, my statement needed to be my way of conveying why a certain school, path of study, or personal experience was important to me. And ever since that first essay, I’ve held that statement very close to my heart.

In fact, it’s something that I think about almost every day. Because some decisions are determined by financial need, some by selfish or non-selfish reasons, but when it comes down to the very fact, our own happiness is too easily clouded over by numbers or lists of pros and cons. Our goals each and every year should measure up to what we, as individuals, want to be remembered by: respecting not only ourselves but the everyone around us (regardless of political affiliation or personal differences), giving and following wise advice, finding love, and raising children who will hopefully and ultimately follow in the paths we start for them. And what more could we want for our posterity (or ourselves) than to look back on their own lives and feel rewarded, accomplished, and happy with their decisions?

Fresh limes. My parents are spoiled by their own garden. Fun fact: they brought that wine barrel home from a post-honeymoon trip to Napa Valley.

So, this year, I hope everyone takes 2013 into his or her own hands. If you’re unhappy at your job, apply for new ones. If you feel out of place, find a new city to live in. If you can’t think of a new year’s resolution that you absolutely love, then perhaps you should simply strive to make each day better than the one before. And if you think your life doesn’t have room for improvement, well, you’re probably settling for less than what you deserve.

You can say it, too: 2013 will be my year.

English Muffins

I have a confession to make.

I am not a morning person.  Definitely.  Not.  Me.

Weird, right?  I know.  I used to think all bakers were morning people, too.  Sorry.  I was wrong.  I’m one of those girls that has to set an alarm at 6 AM to wake up sometime between 7:30 and 8.  I really do hit the snooze button that much.  It’s a problem.  How am I ever going to own a bakery? Continue reading “English Muffins”

Bacon… jam?

Types of jams in my life:

  • Traffic jams. Street or shopping-related.
  • Copier jams. Bane of my professional existence.
  • Jammin’. A cookie rager without Ke$ha or Cee Lo?  Blasphemous.
  • Jammed. As in my schedule. I don’t have time for anything these days…

And now, bacon jam. To tell the truth, I actually don’t even like bacon. Well, I only really enjoy bacon over French toast, doused in maple syrup… which I haven’t eaten in years. Years! But even then, I’d order turkey sausage over bacon any day. Hmm… just thinking about this makes me want to cook a French toast breakfast — a real one, where you soak thick slices of homemade brioche overnight in eggs and vanilla, and then, rather than ruin it with fake maple syrup, top it with confectioner’s sugar, cinnamon, and strawberries. Gah! I’ve gotten so off-track. And I’m revealing potential blog posts. Where’s the fun in that? Back to bacon.

The idea came from gchat (where all good ideas begin). My snickerdoodle recipe source, who has since moved back to California – so lame, I know – suggested doing our own cookie exchange. He and I also happen to be members of a bacon list-serve, started by another college friend. [Side note: to this day, I can’t remember how I became swallowed by the bacon- thread, but it’s entertaining, ridiculous, and a great way to keep in touch with those friends, so the carnivorous anti-kosher thread continues to feed the black hole also known as my inbox.]  Interestingly enough, Martha highlighted bacon recipes in one of her magazines last month. The only one that looked remotely appealing to me happened to be the one about bacon jam, probably because it involved maple syrup. As you can imagine, the combination of these three things – gchat cookie exchange conversation, bacon list-serve, and Martha’s recipe – fell perfectly into place.

But really, few things are more disgusting to me than frying bacon. The smell, sight, and texture of it trigger gag reflexes. Seriously. Just editing the pre-jam bacon photos made me feel sick to my stomach. I was also about one-hundred percent positive that I would be disgusted by the jam, and that I’d happily jar it and send it across the country. And then leave all the windows and doors open to air out the house as soon as scientifically possible.

I apologize to bacon-lovers out there for the bacon-bashing. But it’s how I truly feel; I don’t choose to be this way. I’m sure you feel the same about something that I may very well love (possibly goose liver pate or something from the spectrum of Filipino food).

Anyway, as shocked as I was, the jam turned out to be quite delicious. As in, I had to scrape up every last bit of self control to keep myself from going to town on the jam with a spoon.

Patrick, you are so welcome.

WHAT YOU NEED (adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food):

2 lbs. lean bacon

1 medium-sized yellow onion, diced

2 to 3 cloves of peeled garlic, quartered
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¼ cup white vinegar

2/3 cup packed brown sugar

1/3 cup maple syrup

1 cup brewed coffee

1 teaspoon cinnamon

WHAT TO DO:

Martha called for a slow cooker. I don’t have one of those, so I improvised. I also didn’t have cider vinegar, which I’m sure would have been great, but I improvised and changed quantities, and added some cinnamon.

First, slice the bacon into one-inch strips. Yes, all of the raw bacon. Usually, I’m slightly perturbed by the texture of raw meat. I might just be scarred from man-handling raw chicken livers. But the bacon was harmless, and somewhat satisfying. Bacon fat is not nearly as gooey as other types of meat – perhaps because of the curing process.

Anyway, slice up the bacon, and fry it in a large skillet until browned. Remove from heat, and let the bacon pieces cool down on a few paper towels. There’s no need for unnecessary grease when you’re going to be simmering bacon in a vat of syrup.

In a medium-sized saucepan, take 2 tablespoons of the bacon grease, and combine with the diced onions and the garlic. Sauté until the onions are translucent. Then, combine the vinegar, sugar, syrup, coffee, and cinnamon. Heat on high until the sugar dissolves, and the solution boils. Add the bacon pieces into the pot. Stir, cover, and simmer on very low heat for 3 to four hours, until the mixture is syrupy. Then, remove from heat, let cool, and pulse grind in a food processor. Taste, then jar, then ship to California.

More cookies.

Hello, reader. My blogging was on hiatus — night classes are to blame. But I thought I’d return with a treat.

I’m actually on a flight from Los Angeles to Washington at the moment. I had taken a short trip to visit with family and friends, and to run my first half-marathon. I did it! And luckily, there were a number of physical therapists at the finish line to stretch and rub out the knots that were making my legs shake after running 13 miles. I was literally incapable of doing anything but standing for about thirty minutes because my legs were too tired to support my body’s attempts to relax on the ground. I guess it’s just too difficult after running for two and a half hours straight.

Naturally, my trip to California was filled to the brim, with rendezvous after rendezvous. And It was just impossible to see everyone, for which I apologize. But there will be return trips in the future, and as always, my favorite people are always welcome in Washington!

These are cookies I made for a close friend’s birthday — her name starts with a “D,” so I thought some initialed cookies would be as fashionable as she is. Her nickname is also “BW,” for bacon-weave (don’t ask), so there are a couple of those in there as well. The recipe can be found here; it’s my usual super thin sugar cookie recipe with royal icing.