Thursday, August 7, 2014

Adventures in baking....

#13 - Learn how to make a perfect New York Cheesecake

When Matt & I started dating, I would have never thought that one of the many things Matt would teach me about was cooking. Frankly, I had limited cooking skills (but could manage my way around a kitchen when needed.) Yet slowly and diligently, Matt taught me the basics of trimming meat, how to properly chop onions and garlic, and has now started to push me in the direction of his domain: the grill. Mainly, I need to learn because his job(s) take so much of his time, but also because I think he gets a thrill out of watching me cook after hearing my years of limited skills. (Too bad he doesn't know that hot dogs taste just as good when cooked in the microwave.) 

It wasn't until I started expressing an interest in baking that he finally let me have my own domain. It would be beneficial to learn how to make his favorite after-meal desserts so that we weren't buying cookies and brownies laden with calories and saturated fats. It meant more to know that the core ingredients were flour, sugar, eggs, butter, chocolate, etc. Matt would share his love of cookies, but he had also told me his favorite non-chocolate dessert: cheesecake. 

So once I impulse purchased a KitchenAid and started experimenting with baking, I knew that the one thing I wanted to perfect more than anything else was New York Cheesecake. And for those who understand, cheesecake is not an easy feat! 

My first attempt....I may not have let the cream cheese and sour cream come to room temperature enough, resulting in a delicious (but chunky) texture. Not only that, but the crust wasn't setting the way I wanted to, nor was the cheesecake solidifying as much as I had hoped. The whole venture was trial and error, learning the basics of what makes that perfect smooth and creamy texture (with a nice crunchy crust) when you take that first bite. I was more than determined to figure it out. 

I tried the water bath, I let items sit out longer to come to room temperature, I even let things mix a little more to make sure everything was incorporated as it should be. I painstakingly put love and attention into a baking challenge I gave myself. The end result? Cheesecake that was eaten like it was a last meal.

As I reflect back on my self-imposed challenge, I've realized that it wasn't so much about perfecting a difficult recipe. It was learning more about food and my relationship with it. Since the cheesecake, we mastered bread, homemade pasta, potato salad, the perfect turkey burger, macaroni & gravy, and pretty much anything we can get our hands on to cook. Using just simple ingredients rather than trying to buy pre-made has become a motto that Matt and I adhere to. Because let me tell you, you can be healthier when the carbs you are ingesting are ones that you created, not a factory assembly line. (More importantly, it became a new bond in my relationship with Matt, something we could share in together...a new venture that allowed us to learn more about one another.)

And to think, it all started from a need to challenge myself in the kitchen.

~ Jenn

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Shine bright and don't be afraid to take chances....

#12 - Spend a day with Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery

I know I haven't written here lately....and this needs to change, especially since I feel my life is full of several things that I hope to accomplish, dream of accomplishing even if it never happens (or reflecting on said accomplishment.) This goal is at out there as it gets for me....but I can't help but want to post it and offer an explanation.

I find people fascinating, whether they're famous or not. 

Everyone has a story to tell, everyone has something about them that makes them stand apart from one another, everyone piques my curiosity (more or less). I've struck up conversations with complete strangers and walked away with such a sense of self-enlightenment and understanding. Whether it be a train ride befriending a young Brazilian gentleman whose uncle is part of the paparazzo in his country, helping to console a woman on my flight to Michigan as she prepares to see her father for the last time and prepare his funeral arrangements, or even wax philosophical about life and true happiness with a French gentleman in a bar at the Jersey Shore on a random Wednesday night. Each of us are composed of memories that shape our minds and how we react to the world around us. 

So why Norman Reedus and Sean Patrick Flanery?

It's simple, really. 

I love hanging out with Matt and more importantly, I find men to be much more entertaining than most women. Sorry, but it's the truth, although my group of female friends has been growing lately. (I'm secretly grateful to know that there are good women out there not out to make me completely lose my mind...or treat me like dirt because I'm going to marry a man they have a very obvious crush on. Really, it's refreshing to find good women for a change.) 

And most important, when I find someone especially interesting, I tend to notice that the ones I want to be around/respect/admire are the ones that have those same qualities that Matt has. Kind-hearted, a private person with an interesting story, great sense of humor, and possibly some good taste in music. For those who don't know who Norman or Sean are, I encourage you to watch The Boondock Saints I and II, or merely Google their names....their bodies of work speak volumes for the immense talent that they bring to the screen.

It's not about fame, but more about just wanting to spend time with two people I would probably find myself treating like two long-time friends. (And possibly raiding Norman's collection of vinyl because let's face it, the man knows good music and I wouldn't mind getting into an in-depth conversation about what he's into....he may also need to hide the photography equipment!) (And Sean may need to share some more funny/embarrassing stories....I'm sure there are plenty more!)

Both men have proven that their fans mean something to them, to their character, to the journey they have taken....and they give back every chance to them. I met Norman and the poor man after a night of little to no sleep spent 11 hours signing autographs and taking pictures, just to make sure everyone was taken care of. Sean shares these beautiful stories and based on fan accounts, loves spending time connecting with those who share in his philosophies about perseverance and love of life. 

So, why wouldn't I want to spend a day with two admirable individuals? I pride myself on getting to be surrounded by good people as much as possible....Norman and Sean definitely fit that criteria. 

Maybe one day....


Sunday, June 17, 2012

A Moment of Clarity...

#11 - Speak My Mind Freely:

An odd one, yes, but one that hopefully after this entry I can continue to execute without hesitation. (This is also fulfilling the request of a friend who told me to do something "nice" for myself, so writing immediately came to mind...since writing makes me feel just as free as when I listen to music or put my toes into sand.)

It has come to my attention that when I write, there are people who will disagree with my version of a story in my life. We all have stories that we want to share with the world...some recall more details than others. But that's just the thing, isn't it? Our stories revolve around how we interpret them, not what others tell us the story needs to be.

I'm sorry if people feel like I have slighted them by what I remember, but I'm not sorry for how I remember things. Sometimes I won't get every detail in. Maybe I forget to add a person in, maybe a minute description is left out. Whatever the case may be, I at least have ALWAYS tried to get the story as accurate as possible before I posted it for others. And most of these stories come from my journals, where obviously I wrote down as much as I could as close to that moment it happened. 

I've been censored before, told that what I wrote was wrong and it needed to be changed. And yes, it's been done by those people who are supposed to support me in anything I want to share. But no more. As a writer, I'm going to offend people (even if it's not my intention). I'm going to forget certain details (even if it's not my intention). The story will be my version, my interpretation of the moment as it happened. 

In the movie Big Fish, Ed Bloom would tell stories as naturally as it is to breathe. He thrived on weaving such intricate and graphic stories not because that's the exact portrayal, but rather because he told stories the way he wanted to remember them. 

I don't go telling you how to tell your stories in your life--they are yours and yours alone. I want you to remember them the way that YOU remember them, just as I choose to remember mine. 

~ Jenn

Sunday, January 15, 2012

To [someone], wherever you are....

#10 - Have a snail mail penpal:

A little strange, I know, but the idea of giving and receiving letters in the mail has always made me smile. 

Just the mere thought that someone would take their time to sit down and write to another person, sharing their lives through 1-2 neatly (or messily) scribbled words means more than just an e-mail. I love how paper comes with its own smell, stains and discolorations, even pen smudges. Actual letters are just more personal. 

Don't misunderstand when I admit that I have been known to have an e-mail penpal or two in my extensive list of friends. Yet every once in a while, I wish that I had a friend who I could just pick up a pen and paper and share everything with.

My bf Matt told me that if I really want a penpal, I should look into prison programs or even write to a soldier. Part of me sounds happy to do that, possibly bring some joy into another person's life. Maybe not now or anytime soon, but I hope that one day I can share just a little sliver of sunshine with someone who truly needs it.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

"Piercing" a fear....

#9 - Face a fear:

Fears, we all have them. Mine are very common: needles, spiders, drowning. While all of them scare me senseless and I've faced two of them in big ways (I will explain the scuba diving story another time), I think I'll address the first one I faced.

I've been deathly afraid of needles longer than anyone knows. Yes, I've had my ears pierced before, but those are done with a special gun. I'm talking about needle needles. 

In fact, I have distinct memories of needing to be held down at the doctors office because I would scream and cry when I saw that syringe. I can't tell you what started my fear of needles, but even at 28 years old, I need someone to talk me down when I have to get a shot. Yet when I was 18, I was determined to try and face my somewhat irrational fear head on.

It was my freshman year of college when my friend Liz had told me she wanted to get a tattoo. Nothing too major, just a simple arm band of vines and leaves. When her parents saw it, they were a little upset, but I thought it looked beautiful. But getting back to the original story, when Liz proposed this idea, I had been thinking about piercing my navel. Of course, she encouraged the thought and before we knew it, both of us were on the hunt for the perfect tattoo/piercing parlor in Westchester County. Our search sent us to our friend, Daina, who was covered in various tattoos & piercings. We were in luck when she told us to go to "Big Joe & Sons" in Yonkers, NY. After a phone call to make our appointments, the plan was officially set. 

Many times I thought I was going to chicken out on getting it done, but I assured myself that I needed to do this. If not for a cool, new piercing, than to face this crazy fear that has paralyzed me for years. So on the day of our appointment, we went into the shop and while Liz picked out her cool tattoo, I went straight to the chair.

After 10 years, the distinct memories of who did it and the layout of the room have become a little hazy, but what assured me was seeing all the equipment cleaned and opened in front of me. I knew I was paying a little bit more than most people for a piercing, but I knew I was in the right hands. I laid down on my back, trying to take deep breaths as the piercer prepared his station. 

When I saw he was ready, I closed my eyes. I couldn't watch him pierce my skin, because I would feel  He told me to keep taking deep breaths and after I took this one deep breath and exhaled, I would be done. I figured he knew what he was talking about and after one deep breath and a slight pinch of the skin, I felt instant relief when I heard him say "alright, you're all done."

Looking down, there was this silver ring peeking out below. I almost couldn't believe it, I had gotten a body piercing and I had not freaked out or cried like I had in the past. It felt vindicating and wonderful. True, I had many, many months of cleaning it to make sure it didn't get infected, but I was ok with that. I conquered a huge hurdle in a pretty intense way. 

So yeah, I may still panic or cry when they give me a shot or take blood, but now I know that for at least one time, I was able to handle it. And that means more than any vaccination. 


Monday, January 9, 2012

It's all Greek to me....

#8 - Learn a complex language:

Ever since I could remember, I've always been fascinated with languages. The words, the meanings, the conjugations, the reasoning behind the phrasing order....all of it fascinates me to no end. So many different languages to learn, so little time. But that's not to say I haven't learned at least one or two in the meantime. ;-)

From 8th to 12th Grade, it was Spanish. (It felt good meeting friends who could only speak Spanish and helping them make fun of the people who would make fun of their lack of English.) In college, I learned French, which is such a beautiful language to learn! If you have the time and patience to learn the several similar pronunciations, then I suggest you try it.   

In the next ten years, I hope to brush up on the languages I've already learned, as well as learn Italian, German & one mystery language. For a while, I've thought about Mandarin Chinese. Why? Mainly because it's so difficult and to learn it would be a huge goal accomplishment. But as of late, I've started changing my mind. 

With Matt having family members who still live in Greece, it might be an even better challenge to learn how to speak Greek to converse with them. I know his Aunt Elizabeth is such a sweetheart and it would make me feel even better if there was a way to bridge the language gap in some way.

I think for 2012, this goal needs to start. I'm tired of just checking off each goal one at a time. It's time to start finding my way back to my love for knowledge and more important, for language.


Thursday, November 10, 2011

A tape recorder and a dream....

#7 - Interview one of my favorite bands

As previously stated, I have an undying passion for writing, especially about music! And when I figured that out, I couldn't help but let myself be consumed by it. I wanted to be that girl who always got her story, especially while getting the opportunity to talk to musicians who have changed my life.

In college, I would have easily said my only favorite non-classic rock band was Jupiter Sunrise. They were sweet, charismatic & helped me through many different stages of my young adult life. I would not have been the same without them. I may have never gotten the chance to interview and write an article about them, but some of the conversations I managed to partake in with those band members will always hold a special place in my heart.

Fast forward to now, while Jupiter Sunrise may still be on that list, other bands have taken up residence with them. Now I'm sure most people would wonder why I couldn't be satisfied with just meeting and getting an autograph and/or picture with my faves....sometimes it's just not enough. By nature, I'm curious to know more about everything. For example, I remember getting so engrossed in the movie Stigmata that I started researching and learning everything I could about the strange phenomena. Eventually I lose interest in the topic (but retain the info), but with's almost like an addiction. I can never get enough of it. 

I'm hoping with the new year (and my determination to keep my resolutions), that I will finally reach up for my dream and grab hold of it. My current goal is for Bonnie Dune. I know there have been in-depth interviews already done, but I'm not satisfied. I want to touch that goal for myself. I'm itching to make sure that in my journey to become a music journalist, I accomplish personal goals. Because while I could write about anyone or anything, isn't it more rewarding when you reach for something that you want?