"No matter what happens in the kitchen, never apologize." - Julia Child

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Ring things: Why I don't wear my engagement ring every day

Most ladies, when presented with engagement bling, are thrilled beyond words and barely take off their new jewelry acquisition (if they take it off at all--I know some gals who never remove their rings). I feel like I am already establishing myself as an offbeat bride because I rarely wear my engagement ring.

Before you think I'm some sort of ungrateful woman who doesn't appreciate her gentleman and the gorgeous token he's given her to symbolize their love and commitment, hear me out.

First off, my ring is the wrong size--it's too big. I wasn't sure of my ring size when I ordered my ring from the interwebs--I knew I was between a 5 and a 6--so I played it safe and ordered it a size too big. So even though it fits my finger, it's a bit loose and I was worried about losing it, especially since my fingers tend to contract in size in the winter cold. I wanted to wait to get it adjusted until after I had my wedding band (which I ordered in a size 5, which IS my real size, as you'll see below), so I could see how the two fit together, so in the meantime I went to a jeweler and had them put on an inexpensive ($10) temporary sizer.

The woman at this jewelry store seemed to think she knew more about my own body than I myself do. When I used a sizer to figure out my official size, I was pleased to see that yes, the 5 was indeed the size that felt comfortable on my finger. But the woman made me try on a 4.5 sizer, and that ended up being the size my ring was adjusted to.

"I think the 4.5 is a little tight on me," I said, as I gave the sizer a vigorous twist and pull to get it off my finger.

"No, you're a 4.5," she insisted.

"But it was sort of hard to get that ring off," I persisted, politely. "And my fingers swell in the summer."

"You had no difficulties removing the 4.5 ring," she said, a bit snootily. "That's your size."

I was not going to win here. I sighed and gave up. Fine. I was a 4.5. Whatever.

So since this woman wouldn't listen to me and sized my ring to a 4.5, my ring is just a tad tight, which means it squeezes my finger and gets a tad uncomfortable and leaves an imprint after I wear it for a whole day. So until I take it to get it officially sized in a month or two, I have to deal with the squeezing and the temporary finger disfigurement.

The other reason I don't wear my ring every day is that I work at home, alone. And it's not like I can't just wear the ring for myself, because I could, and I should if I want to, but I just don't think to put it on. Partly because it's a tad too tight as I just described, and partly because I'm just not used to wearing it.

An engagement ring is a very public symbol of a very private thing: a decision between two people to spend the rest of their lives together as a married couple. So maybe I don't remember to wear it when I'm home but I also don't feel the need to wear it, because I know and Jeremy knows that we're getting married, and that's good enough for me. I try to remember to wear it every time I go out, but I don't always remember then either. If I worked outside the home, would I wear it every day? Maybe. There would probably still be days when I forgot though. And I don't think it would be that big of a deal, to me or to Jeremy.

I love it. I love my ring. But I don't necessarily think it's more than that: a ring. A symbol. A beautiful one, but just a symbol. I don't need it to prove anything, because I feel like I have nothing to prove and no one to prove it to.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Cinnamon chocolate chip sour cream coffee cake, oh my!

Somehow I managed to miss that yesterday's post was my 100th post in this blog! Hurrah to me!

To celebrate this momentous event, I bring you a most delicious recipe for cinnamon chocolate chip sour cream coffee cake from Smitten Kitchen!

I'm actually going to include the recipe here along with my commentary, because I feel like there is a bit of a trick to preparing this. It's not horrendously difficult or anything, but I did find that this bears some notes. Also my own photos, because as Deb of SK admits buried in her list of many comments, her mum put together the cake she photographed for the post somewhat differently from the recipe instructions, hence the lack of chocolatey goodness on top. So without further ado, read this recipe, get yourself into the kitchen, and make this cake!

Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Sour Cream Coffee Cake

For the cake:
1 stick unsalted butter (4 ounces or 8 tablespoons) at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 eggs, separated (remember: separate them when they're cold, then let them come to room temp!)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
16 ounces sour cream (I use the low-fat kind and it's just as nice!)
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda

For filling and topping:
12 ounces chocolate chips
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease a 9"x13" cake pan.

In a bowl, sift flour, baking soda, and baking powder together. I use a large fine-mesh sieve for sifting. After you sift everything into the bowl, use a whisk to get all your dry ingredients blended together.

In a small bowl, mix together the 1/2 cup of sugar and teaspoon of cinnamon. Use a fork to blend them together well, then set this aside.

In a large bowl, use a mixer to cream together the softened butter and 1 1/2 cups sugar until light and fluffy (2 to 3 minutes), then mix in the egg yolks and vanilla.

Use the whisk attachment of your mixer to beat the egg whites until they're stiff and hold firm peaks. 

Alternately add sour cream and then flour mixture into butter mixture. This will require near-superhuman strength, because this mixture will become incredibly thick and hard to stir. I had to use a wooden spoon and then stop every couple of stirs to scrape it off with a spatula. Really. It is that thick. You will oof and grunt your way through this one, but it's okay! It will look almost like a bread dough rather than a batter. Carry on!

Now the recipe calls for you to fold the egg whites into the batter. Laugh, because there's no way anyone will be able to properly fold the egg whites into the black-hole-dense mass of dough in the bowl in front of you. Do the best you can to incorporate them in a technique that is as close to proper egg white folding as possible. The mixture will become softer as you incorporate the egg whites, but don't get discouraged if you can't do the folding properly. I adore artfully folding egg whites into batters, but this is not one of the times that calls for art. It calls for sheer determination and the use of your biceps.

Mop the sweat from your brow and get that cake pan handy. Plop about half the batter into the pan and spread it around. Again, it's so thick that this isn't going to be easy. I found that it was easiest to blob in gobs of dough all around the pan and use a small spatula to spread it around to completely cover the bottom of the pan. Once you've got the first layer of batter in the pan, use a spoon to sprinkle on about half the cinnamon-sugar mixture you prepared earlier, and then add about half the chocolate chips.

Then gob on the second half of the batter and spread it round again with the spatula. This can get a bit messy because of the chip layer, but I find that if you drop the batter in the pan in small amounts before spreading, it keeps things neater. (See photo!)

Once you've got all the batter in the pan, sprinkle on the rest of the cinnamon-sugar mixture and the rest of the chips. Grumble to yourself about what a pain in the ass it was to put this together, then put it in the oven for 40 to 50 minutes until a tester comes out clean. Put the pan on a rack and let it cool. Wonder if all the effort was worth it.

It is! It IS worth the effort! The cake is moist and spongy and not overly sweet, and the cinnamon-sugar mix on top gets slightly melty and crisp, and the chocolate chips don't melt all the way and it's just awesome. The first time I made this, Jeremy took some to work and it was extremely popular--so much so that one of his coworker's wives heard tell of it and felt left out so I packed up some for him to take home to her.

So yes... Jeremy and his coworkers are lucky gents, and you and your loved ones will be lucky too if you make one of these coffee cakes! Like I mentioned in my previous post, I'm pretty sure this is one of the reasons Jeremy is so excited to marry me: a lifetime guaranteed supplier of cinnamon chocolate chip sour cream coffee cake.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The life of a newly engaged lady

So! What does a newly engaged lady do in the days following her engagement? If that newly engaged lady is me, it goes something like this.

  • Newly engaged lady (hereafter referred to as "NEL") excitedly shares the happy news with friends and family.
  • NEL shows people her ring and is pleased when everyone oohs and aahs over how beautiful and unique it is. She feels slightly guilty that she is buying into the tradition of a lady receiving a diamond upon engagement, but not so much so that she doesn't enjoy the sparkle. She is, after all, a lover of gems.
  • NEL has to explain that no, there was no formal proposal, so she has no sweeping grandiose tale of romance to relate. 
  • NEL has to explain to over-eager friends and well-wishers that no, there are no wedding plans yet. She and Fiance plan to get married, hopefully within the year. But that's just about it. NEL starts to wonder just how much time other ladies devote to wedding planning, real or imagined, before they actually get engaged. NEL starts to wonder if there's something wrong with her because she was never one of those little girls who dreamed about her wedding. Instead she dreamed about having her artsy black-and-white author photo emblazoned on the dust jacket of an international best-seller (that she has yet to write).
  • NEL uses a birthday Amazon gift certificate to order a bunch of budget wedding planning books, including Offbeat Bride, the book that led to the greatest website ever for the newly engaged
  • NEL finds a binder from her senior year in high school titled "The Sacrament of Marriage," a project wherein all senior year girls had to plan their own weddings, both from a religious perspective and a practical perspective. NEL laughs when she sees that her 17-year-old self imagined getting married at age 22. She laughs even harder when she sees that her wedding budget was under $5,000. Then she sighs and feels like crying a little bit.
  • NEL travels back to Boston post-birthday-Thanksgiving-engagement-and-reunion-with-high-school-friends-whirlwind and feels the doldrums that come after a week of excitement and fun. She finds it hard to work, mostly because she's begun obsessing, just slightly, about her wedding. 
  • NEL starts to seriously research things like venues and a bubble of panic begins to form inside of her when she realizes how expensive these things are.
  • NEL starts to imagine a wedding with only 50 guests. Then 30. Then 10. Then she begins to imagine how wonderful (and affordable!) eloping would be.
  • NEL decides that eloping is the only solution.
  • NEL realizes that even though she never spent hours imagining her perfect dress or floral arrangements or first-dance song, she actually does want a real wedding, with a meaningful ceremony and surrounded by family and friends. Elopement is out of the question.
  • Realizing this, NEL then faces the fact that it will cost a lot of money to have even a very simple, pared-down, classy yet unelaborate wedding.
  • NEL spends several days feeling pit-of-the-stomach dread and several nights getting very little sleep because she cannot turn off her brain.
  • NEL, in a state of sleep deprivation and complete financial paranoia, has a meltdown. 
  • Fiance of NEL spends the evening comforting her as she sobs and snots and wails all over. Fiance of NEL wipes her tears away, assures her everything will be okay, reminds her that a wedding is a happy thing, tells her to relax, throws away her snot-covered tissues, and puts her to bed.
  • NEL realizes she is marrying a gem who is right.
  • NEL gets a good night's sleep and wakes up the next day confident that yes, she and Fiance can figure out a way to do this and stay happy.
  • NEL brainstorms and researches and finds potential wedding venue and lots of money-saving ideas. 
  • NEL feels much better and actually gets excited about the prospect of planning her wedding. Fiance is actually showing enthusiasm and contributing ideas too, which makes NEL extremely happy that this isn't going to turn into The Bride Show with Groom acting as a mere prop.
  • NEL vows not to become a Bridezilla.
  • NEL happily bakes a cinnamon chocolate chip sour cream coffee cake, which she is convinced is just a tiny bit responsible for Fiance wanting to marry her. Yes, it really is that good. (Recipe to follow!)
So there you have it. My life as a newly engaged lady, to date. I have no idea if this is how a typical newly engaged lady spends the first couple of weeks after getting engaged, but I'm sort of glad I had a meltdown early on. It gave me some much-needed perspective and helped me lighten up and remember that this should be FUN, not OMG WTF. Also, the wedding porn on Offbeat Bride helps me feel not quite so odd for wanting to do things my way.

Fun recipes, including coffee cake recipe, coming soon!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Big news and a big year ahead!

It amazes me that it's December already. My November went by in a blur. I don't like to make excuses for not blogging, but I do have my reasons for finding it hard to make the time to do it. My month was rather busy: deadlines for work, turning 30 (more on that in a minute), celebrating Thanksgiving, seeing old friends. Oh yeah, and getting engaged.


Anyone who's known Jeremy and I for any period of time knows we've been together for a while now (6 years together, 8 years of knowing each other), so it's not like the news suddenly came out of nowhere. Jeremy and I had been talking about it for a while, but we finally just decided to make it official. (No, there was no proposal. I didn't want that, actually. We wanted to come to the decision together when the time was right.) He got me a lovely ring that is very me: it is delicate and different and vintage looking. (Photo below: props to my mama and her experimentation with her camera settings to find just the right one for a non-blurry close-up.) Part of me knew I didn't need a gem to make it official, but the other part of me just adores gems. I think I am a pretty even mix of traditional and offbeat. I made sure to wait until I found the perfect one though, and believe me: I looked at HUNDREDS of rings. I feel like I take after my maternal grandmother: she really loved jewelry and so do I. She had some fabulous pieces, and she, my mother, and I must all have the same size hands because all of her rings fit my mother and me perfectly. I found her wedding band set when I was home for Thanksgiving and part of me thought that perhaps I could have just used that for my own rings, but then I realized I just love the ring Jeremy got me and I like the idea of starting my own tradition. I look forward to wearing one of her rings on my own wedding day, though, to honor her in my own little way. My cousin did this and I like being part of that tradition.

And speaking of wedding days, no, no plans yet. But rest assured that as they come together, I will certainly share them here. (In a normal, oh-my-god-how-do-I-plan-a-wedding/look-at-this-cool-idea-and learn-from-it-or-enjoy-it way rather than as a BRIDEZILLA!)

I was so happy to turn 30 this year. I genuinely was. I have a job I enjoy, I like my apartment and neighborhood, I am feeling good about myself mentally and physically, I love my friends and my hobbies, and I have a man who loves me who I love dearly who I will be marrying. Pretty good year! I am excited for what the future will bring to us.

Jeremy and I share a birthday (November 21), and this year we decided to have a nice dinner together at Top of the Hub. It was great. We had a really nice meal and a great view, and it was nice to just have a night together to enjoy each other's company and know that soon we would be sharing the news of our engagement with our friends. And let me just say how awesome it has been to share our news. Everyone is so excited and supportive and showering us with happiness and good wishes and (among the most eager) wedding ideas. So thankful to have such great friends! A big beso to you all!