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vanilla whipped cream

When I knew I was moving, one of the only things I wanted was a window in my kitchen, preferably by my workspace. Baking is gentle, can be slow, and is made even more magical by a breeze coming in through the window brushing stray hands of hair across your neck. Right now I have that open window, 55 degree fall air coming through, a ceiling fan on, and a heart trying to be still.

I’m a methodical person. Logic was one of my favorite philosophy courses. I thrive on a schedule. I’m a planner. I feel better when I know what the next step is. I like knowing what the outcome is going to be. I read the whole recipe, I get familiar enough with it to know what should be next. But right now, I don’t know what’s next.

In the grand scheme of things I know where I’m heading. I have a great love, and mountains I want to live between. I know where I’m heading, but the between here and then is so abstract and intangible. What I don’t know is how we, or I get there. I have a month-by-month lease, but because of the timeline at work right now I don’t know where I’ll be in three months. I know where I’ll be in about five steps, but the “meanwhile” is unclear. I can barely tolerate that instability and uncertainty, and really can’t do anything other than go with it. It’s out of my hands for the moment.

But what is in my control is getting the measurement for flour right. I know when to add the liquid ingredients and when to add vanilla. I know I can chill my mixing bowl, pour heavy cream in, add  vanilla, then slowly turn the speed up and wait. I know that with patience it will start frothing and turn into whipped cream. Delicious, luscious, light whipped cream. And if I want more flexibility I can try to cook. Maybe I can make some pasta sauce and not pay much attention to measurements. But when you crave stability and some comfort, sometimes you just want to rely on mixing flour, eggs, butter, and sugar together and knowing exactly what the outcome will be. And a little vanilla. Always vanilla.

Vanilla Whipped Cream

1/2 pint heavy/whipping cream
2 Tablespoons sugar
1.5 teaspoons vanilla bean paste*

1. Chill metal bowl from a mixer for 5 minutes in refrigerator.
2. Pour whipping cream in and turn mixer on low.
3. Gradually turn the speed up to medium-low, letting the cream beat for about a minute between each speed.
4. When the cream is starting to look frothy with lots of bubbles, turn mixer off while you add vanilla paste and sugar. (So it doesn’t splatter everywhere). Return speed back to medium-low slowly.
5. Continue to increase speed to medium. (6 on my Kitchen Aid mixer). Be patient and the cream will start to thicken and turn to whipped cream. When it does get thick, check readiness occasionally so as to not over-whip. Whipped cream is ready when you can remove a mixer and soft peaks stay upright.

*I’ve been using Nielson-Massey vanilla paste for the past two years now, and one bottle has actually lasted that entire time period. I swear by it and use vanilla bean paste instead of extract whenever I can, as the vanilla beans add such a rich flavor.

**Credit due to previously mentioned great love for the blog post title.

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home

Last weekend I went home for the first time since June. Last weekend I arrived at my dear friend’s insanely adorable new house, stared at the front garden, her porch swing, the dried lavender hanging from the ceiling, gawked at the gigantic spider building a web outside her kitchen window, and sat down with a Coors to catch up. We talked about how things had changed over the past year, how we had been lost, but things were slowly becoming more clear. We both have lovely homes that we are relieved to come back to at the end of the day. We aren’t trying to escape anymore. We’re stepping into lives we can call our own. Is this what it feels like to start “getting it together?”

Last weekend I slept with the windows open at my parents house with crickets as white noise, and I watched entirely too many episodes of Property Brothers with my mother. (Not really, there’s no such thing as “too many episodes of Property Brothers”) I had my favorite dish at the Indian restaurant in town, and ran into old family friends. Then ran into another friend as I was picking up Indiana beer to bring back with me. It made my heart happy to see people I knew, to catch up, to be around the familiar. Home was familiar, it was comfortable, and it was safe.

Springfield Furniture

A couple weekends ago I was fortunate enough to be able to spend a weekend with my family in Springfield, Illinois, to be tourists for the Abraham Lincoln sights and history. We were celebrating my father’s birthday, and Springfield is just about halfway for all of us to meet up. Can I say just how nice it was to see and spend time with them? I’m always happy to see my parents, and my brother and I got along the whole weekend. (Sorry dude, but you know we get really frustrated with each other) I’ve missed all of them so much, and it simultaneously made being here easier (felt refreshed after quality family time) and being here a lot harder (felt a little lonely coming back to an empty apartment after quality family time). Even aside from that Springfield was really interesting and such a fun trip for me. Now when I say fun, I mean historic, interesting, and informative. I loved it, and if you’re interested in history (especially Abraham Lincoln) I think you will too.

Things you shouldn’t miss

Ditzy Blonde

Breakfast/Lunch at Obed & Isaac’s Microbrewery
If the weather is nice, try to sit outside on their patio. If you go on Sunday, buy an appetizer and be prepared to wait a while for you food. It’s brunch, so enjoy the sun and be patient. Get the Eggs Benedict with the country ham. If you want lunch, get the fish & chips. I can’t recommend the Strawberry beer they had the other weekend, but I did enjoy the Ditzy Blonde.

Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum
Wear comfortable shoes and take your time, because this museum is so well done. Do not miss this stop. It’s good to go here in the afternoon, because it’s air conditioned and there are plenty of benches/chairs so you can rest if you or any other family get tired along the way.

The Lincoln Home

The Lincoln Home
This National Park has preserved about four blocks of the Lincoln neighborhood as it was when Lincoln lived in Springfield. If you want to go on the tour of the home, get here early so you can grab a ticket before they stop issuing them for the day. Now what is really cool is if you go by the neighborhood at night after everything closes. The streets aren’t blocked off or locked up, so you can park right outside the neighborhood and stroll around for a little while. The streets are dark, it’s extremely quiet, and I think it’s about as close to experiencing what night was like back then as I’ve seen. Maybe Williamsburg was closer, but it’s been a really long time since we went there so my memory doesn’t serve me as well.

P.S. Wild wallpaper, huh?

State House Inn

Lodging

The State House Inn
This place is awesome. 
1) The rates are reasonable for how lovely the rooms are.
2) Think 1960s style (molded Eames chairs), but with modern day hotel niceties.
3) It’s about two blocks away from the Amtrak station and one block from the new state capitol.
4) Don’t try to go there for breakfast. The coffe is okay, but the breakfast is lacking (standard bagels, bananas, okay orange juice).

Bonus

If you’re traveling back on I-55 South, on your way to St. Louis stop at the Pink Elephant Antique Store, which is in an old high school. (You can imagine how big this place is.) Even if you have no interest in going to an antique store, it’ll give you an excuse to buy an ice cream. Yes, please.

Antiques

Twistee Treats

I remember the moment I fell in love with Paris. Head over heels love for a city. I was in serious culture shock for a very long time after my family moved, and it wasn’t until May 16, 2006 that I was happy. My friend Tiffany and I were walking across one of the bridges from Île de la Cité back to the metro station, the sun was setting, it was warm, and everything finally just clicked. And pardon my high-school journal, but I went home ti write “I promised myself I wouldn’t let this happen…I wouldn’t get attached to people. but I can’t help it anymore. I fell in love with Paris. I can’t help but breathe everything in walking home at night. The air is so warm and sweet, the sky a deep blue, the spotlight from the Effel Tower shining….I’m sitting on my window ledge with the windows wide open. The air is perfect.”

I’m glad that it’s taken a lot less time for me to adjust here, but I realized today that it’s going to be really really hard to leave. I went into the city yesterday to go to the Soulard Farmers Market for the second time (woke up naturally at 6:30 am on a Saturday…go figure), and then ventured over to Mud House and Whisk Sustainable Bakery afterward. This farmers market is a thing of wonder: open from Wednesdays through Saturdays, four wings (four!) with more choices than I know what to do with. Two pasta makers, meats, cheeses, flowers, herbs, a spice shop, a flower shop, it goes on and on. The first time I went I found most of my groceries for under $40 (all below), and only had to buy milk, diced tomatoes, hummus, and orange juice at the store. (Granted, I still had quite a few staples from my last grocery store trip). As a side-note, I keep reading great things about the Tower Grove Farmers Market too so I think next time I’ll give that a try. Any other recommendations?

After my trip to the market yesterday morning I drove over to Mud House after seeing it featured on this gal’s blog Food Year Resolutions. She is trying all of the best rated restaurants by Sauce Magazine in St. Louis in one year – awesome (and ambitious) idea. While I think there are just a few that she’s written up so far, I can’t wait to see what she thinks about the rest. This place seriously exceeded my expectations and is just what you would imagine a locally owned coffee house in an old neighborhood should be. We’re talking brick walls, beautiful posters, quirky decorations, dim lighting on a grey morning, and a cozy outdoor patio with couples enjoying a lazy Saturday morning. And of course some incredible coffee. I sat down in the back (next to an incredibly fluffy German Shepherd/Great Pyrenees mix) with my latte and flipped through one of their copies of Feast. As I looked through the articles, pictures, and interviews with culinary figures from St. Louis I was overwhelmed, excited, and extremely intimidated. Every single line in this magazine contains a new name or restaurant or brewery that I immediately wanted to go try. How will I ever be able to choose? I’ve barely barely skimmed the surface just by reading about the food and beer scene in this city, and I already have stars in my eyes. And I haven’t even started on the craft breweries yet. (I know I know)

As if that wasn’t enough, I walked down the street to window shop (antique shops seem to be everywhere) and found Whisk Bakery. Mud House was exactly what you’d want from a coffee shop and Whisk Bakery seems to be right on track with what you’d want from a bakery. I can’t wait to go back again and get some pictures, because again, with the blue. I’m loving these great shades of blue in decor lately. I picked up a chocolate chip cookie with sea salt & bacon (it works, trust me), and then bought some of Mila Sweets‘ macarons to-go (yum-my). Since I got stuck in traffic on my way back I went ahead and got a head start with the Pistachio and Lemon. So good.

This is all to say, I’m really happy where I am right now, and again, I love where I live. I don’t expect that I’ll be here forever, but this has been and is going to continue to be an amazing city to live near and a great community I hope I can be a small part of. Come visit and you’ll see.

Groceries from the market

Bunches of basil

Hazelnuts from the market

Soulard Farmers Market

Soulard Farmers Market

Pasta from the farmers market

Sunflowers!

Spice Center

Outside view

Sukie Buns

You guys. These nights. These mornings! The weather! Evenings lately have been perfection.

Living in Missouri I’ve noticed several things. Number one being that “Hey howareyou” is still a standard Midwestern phrase rather than “Hey” and then later asking separately “So how are you?” Number two being that even the quietest people can strike up a conversation with a stranger about the humidity and the heat.

So this recent break in the heat wave has been a godsend. I’ve had the air conditioning off since Sunday and my windows down every night. This week I’ve pulled the sheets back, put on a light t-shirt and shorts, crawled into bed and have read until my eyes just will not stay open. The wind carries a cool breeze in every few minutes and the grasshoppers keep a steady beat outside. If I wake up in the middle of the night, it’s not the worst thing. I just listen for a few minutes and drift back off. The mornings have been cool and foggy, and I’ve been finishing my morning coffee in my bedroom book nook. The air smells sweet and again, this breeze, is heavenly. The nights are quiet and still.

I know seasons pass and the heat will come back, but I’m savoring every single minute of this.

Cake!

I went into this Sunday night armed with my favorite Schlafly Summer Lager, Joy the Baker’s vegan chocolate cake, and an episode of the Biercast. Joy wrote about the Sunday Panics last year and I swear it was the first time I realized this happened to anyone else. She describes symptoms of the Sunday Panics and does a pretty good job hitting the nail on the head. My Sunday Panics usually come with a simultaneous desire to watch everything on Netflix and eat food that is terrible for anyone, but also thinking I should fling myself outside into the sun with a gin & tonic and a swimsuit. “Tomorrow may be Monday, but I still have my freedom!”

But seriously, I do get very panicky on Sundays, and sometimes if I’m lucky it only hits me around 9 pm so I don’t feel guilty about being a little lazy, and I can go to sleep early to cut them (the panics) off at the knees. But other times, especially this weekend they come on strong and early. I spent the weekend in Springfield, Illinois, with my parents and it’s seriously hard to come back to a new city, an empty apartment, and work the next day after a weekend like that. Such is life, though, and I know I can’t escape the fact that yes, it’s Sunday, and yes, tomorrow is Monday. So I took out the flour, the chocolate, the beer, and pressed play on a podcast and got moving. Oh there will still be Netflix, and there will still be junk food (so what, I’m human and I like processed foods sometimes), but as my mother said “There’s nothing like going to bed full and with a little bit of chocolate in you.”

Cake: Joy the Baker’s Vegan Chocolate Cake
Beer: Schlafly Summer Lager
Podcast: The Biercast Brew Loyalty

*Tonight I relied on Instagram for a photo, as I really did want to get some writing about Sunday blues out of me. Stay tuned, though! I just got another roll of color back from the shop.

Squid ink pasta

“A person who has good thoughts cannot ever be ugly. You can have a wonky nose and a crooked mouth and a double chin and stick-out teeth, but if you have good thoughts they will shine out of your face like sunbeams and you will always look lovely.” – Ronald Dahl

One of my cheeriest and most joyous of friends posted an image of this Ronald Dahl quote the other day, and while this may be cliche I’m trying to start the week channeling this. (Waves hi Marie) Because while I truly believe the world sends back what you give, I get wrapped up in my own head a lot, I get moving quickly, and I forget this. I went to a kayaking clinic in North Carolina several summers ago, and one of the things the instructors told us was that if you look at a certain part of the river, you’re sure to travel in that direction. Simply, if there’s an area where you don’t want to be, don’t look that way. But that’s hard sometimes, and takes a consistent and dedicated effort to change one’s thinking. It’s easier to define what I don’t want, what I’m not happy with, what might happen, what might go wrong. It takes a lot of spirit and heart to focus on what I do want and what might go right. Maybe it’s easier than I think. Maybe I just let the other things just fall away.

What if I planted my eyes on what could all fall into place? What if I kept my eyes steady on the beautiful things? What if instead of imagining what could fall apart, I imagined how much could come together? What if I refused to let things I don’t want occupy my thoughts, my mind, my time? I’ll keep my eyes focused on my passions, on my family, on my loves. Letting what might go wrong into my thoughts doesn’t arm me or make me better prepared. The best way to arm oneself for challenges and dark periods is with an ability to see bright spots on the horizon and relentlessly pursue what brings you pure joy. What if I go ahead and untie the weights from my ankles? So today while I’m preparing the darkest of pastas, I’m still looking at the sunbeams.

Squid ink pasta

Squid ink pasta at the market

Squid Ink Linguine with Lemon Garlic & Olive Oil Sauce
Lemon garlic & olive oil sauce recipe by my beau.

6 ounces squid ink linguine
1 Tablespoon butter
2 Tablespoons olive oil
Two cloves garlic, crushed
3 slices lemon
1/8 C sun dried tomatoes

1. In a medium skillet (7-9 inches) heat 1 Tablespoon butter and 1 Tablespoon olive oil on medium-low heat and sautee crushed garlic until fragrant and light brown.
2. Bring 1.5 quarts water to a boil in a medium saucepan.
3. While the water is heating, add additional Tablespoon olive oil, lemon, and sun dried tomatoes to the skillet with garlic. Sautee over medium-low heat until lemons are soft and the meat easily falls out. (Depending on how hot your burners get, this can take between 5-10 minutes) Turn over once or twice.
4. Turn the burner under your skillet (with the garlic sauce) to low, and when your water is boiling add the pasta and cook until it reaches your desired state-of-done-ness for linguine. I typically do a taste test frequently when I think it is close to being done.
5. When your linguine is done, drain in a colander and return to your saucepan.
6. Pour the garlic sauce over the linguine and toss together. Serve up!

Serves 1 large helping. 

*Pictures taken with the Minolta X-370 & Kodak color film.