Monday, May 23, 2011

Max and Me

Spoiler alert: this is not one of those stories where someone spends time with an adorable dog and learns lessons about life and love just in time for some horrible accident to occur and the dog to die. I DO NOT watch, read, or write stories about that kind of thing. This is blog post about the week I spent dog-sitting Max the Beagle, and while there might have been lessons learned, rest assured that everyone survived the week fully intact.

My friends Scott and Lis were going to Belize with both their respective families and a whole bunch of friends. While this was good news for them, it did present a problem. What to do with their adorable beagle, Max, while they were gone? If I have the story right, Scott's Mom was the one who came up with the solution. "What about that girl Margaret who always comments about Max's pictures on Facebook?" Scott and Lis asked me if I would be willing to watch Max while they were gone, and after about .028 seconds of consideration I enthusiastically answered yes.

Perhaps you are not familiar with my love for beagles. My family had two beagles when I was younger, first Truffles who was the most mild-mannered sweetest dog ever and had to be put to sleep due to old age (18 years) and failing health when I was about 8. Our second beagle was named Pooch (original, right? But hey she came with the name from the shelter) who was with us until my college years. She also lived to the ripe old age of 18 and had to put down due to liver failure associated with Cushings disease. So basically, my family loves beagles, and Mom and I always root for the beagle in Westminster and will kind of lose our minds whenever we see one on the street. When the chance presented itself to spend an entire week with Max the beagle, I couldn't resist.

Remember those lessons I mentioned having learned earlier? You're probably wondering what they are. First, I learned that Max is basically the best dog in the whole world. So chill, so affectionate, and so happy to just to be close to you. He hardly ever barked (unless there was a big dog nearby) and he would happily cuddle with me at every opportunity. He loved going for walks and I would try to take him for at least one long walk every day and even throw in a little running.
Which would immediately tire him out. Wuss.

But the second thing I learned is that having a permanent dog in my condo is just not practical. 16 floors up in a one bedroom condo is a little hard for a dog, and everytime I needed to leave the house I felt guilty. I was able to work at home more days than usual so Max wasn't alone a lot and I stayed home more on the weekends (which was pretty awesome for me since I got to relax more), but I don't think I am normally home enough to have a full-time dog. Especially since I am typically gone for almost 12 hours at work and that doesn't count the days I go out after work.

It's a shame really because I loved having Max around and I found myself looking forward to getting home and being with him. In fact, I wondered how much having Max around was like being married. I loved having someone to hang out with every night, he hogged the bed, was a loud eater, and would get restless during Top Model. I never wanted to leave him, and I wasn't happy unless we were snuggling on the couch (he is a great snuggler).

In fact, I got to love him so much, it was hard to say goodbye. The day Scott and Lis got back I was bummed all day and when I took him for his last walk I teared up (yes, I am emotional but I don't care) and when they came and got him I had to kind of push them out the door so I didn't cry. I really didn't want that little guy to go! I was gratified that Lis said he seemed to miss me the next day, but still, I was Maxless. We've discussed visitation rights, and that shit better happen because I got attached. Maybe I can convince them to take more fabulous vacations so I can have more dog-sitting opportunities. I sense a plan forming...

After Max left people would ask me, "so you getting a dog now?" And the answer was always no. Like I said, I don't think it's practical with my living situation and my current lifestyle. I don't miss having a dog, I miss having THAT dog.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Cupcake obsession

I've been on kind of on a cupcake kick lately. I'm not sure what it is...but I have a funny feeling that I like it because it appeals to my OCD. Think about it. A cupcake is a perfect cake in miniature--it provides the golden ratio of icing to cake to flavors. All within a handy little cake. I appreciate thing that have a great balance of taste and textures.

I've said too much.

Point is, I've been making a lot of cupcakes. The first new recipe was also my most ambitious. My stepmother copied it from a cooking magazine for me and it was a great spin on a S'more Cupcake.

What made this one different was the actual cake. It was a graham cracker based cake, which I thought was really unusual. It's basically your typical white cake, but you leave out some of the flour and sub in graham crackers bits. You end up with a really moist cake infused with graham cracker-ness. Then, you cut a hole in the top of the cake, and pipe marshmallow fluff into the cupcake. Put a layer of chocolate ganache on the cake and top it with a toasted marshmallow cap (put some marshmallow fluff on a cookie sheet and then put it under the broiler) and you got yourself one awesome cupcake.

And I secreted some of them away into the freezer so I can have them for those emergency cupcake moments. You know: a break-up, death in the family, rainy weather, a day that ends in "day," those kind of times.

After the success of the S'more Cupcakes, I tried another new recipe, this time I utilized my Williams Sonoma Star Wars Cupcake kit. Oh, yeah you read that right. The kit basically consisted of cupcake wrappers and these little characters on sticks you could stick into the cupcakes, but whatever. The point is Star Wars + cupcakes = AWESOME.

I went with a very light, very moist chocolate chip cupcake recipe; the batter contained whipped egg whites so it was very fluffy. One problem, the batter was so light most of the chocolate chips sunk to the bottom of the cake during the baking. But whatever. Still yummy. Oh, and the Hershey kiss on top was just for funsies.

My final foray into cupcakes was a bit of a departure. I had a box of Thin Mint girl scout cookies, some peppermint extract, and a dream. You put those Thin Mints in a food processor, make a few tweaks to a dense chocolate cupcake recipe, add some mint flavoring to icing and you got yourself some bangin Thin Mint cupcakes. No picture for these, mostly because they didn't stick around long enough for me to even take one. Also, I think I lost my camera.

The quest for the perfect cupcake doesn't stop here, so if you know any good recipes send them my way. I can reward you with, guess what, cupcakes!