Friday, February 25, 2011

Sigh of Relief

I just let out a sigh of relief. Spring Break is here. Yay.

I tried to post earlier but blogger was being lame and kept telling me "Error, I am being lame, your post will not publish." Ok, that's not exactly what the error message said, but that is how I interpreted it.

This post was just going to be a short rant on how I completely screwed up an exam today, but lately the power of positive thinking has been doing good things in my life, so maybe I will give it a try instead of sinking into a dark pool of negativity.

I am going to bake those french toast muffins tonight. Thanks, Mom, for supplying me with two loaves of Cinnamon-Swirl Bread. You're my favorite, don't tell the others. I cannot wait until the smell of sweet cinnamon-vanilla goodness fills my apartment.

My French professor let us out early today. I debated just skipping the class since it was at 3pm and I got little sleep last night in order to study for an exam I bombed, but my conscience got the best of me. That's ok. I secretly love the days before breaks when classes are at least half-empty. Yeah, I know, I am a big dork - deal with it.

Lately I've been intrigued by the theory of self-awareness. I'm reading the book Blue Like Jazz and it's just a small part of what the author discusses, but it seems really cool. Maybe I'll be able to find another book that talks about it more.

Sometimes, ok that's a lie, basically all the time, if I am ever in a situation that is somewhat awkward, my first choice of how to deal with feeling uncomfortable is to use humor. If you know me, you know that by humor, I really mean sarcasm. I enjoy sarcasm and dry senses of humor but I'm beginning to realize that I might want to figure out a bit of a more mature way to deal with "grown-up" situations. Is this just one of those "Gee, I am really getting older" moments?

Speaking of getting older, the other morning I scared myself half-to-death when my roommates left for class in the morning and left their cereal bowls in the sink. I actually said out loud "Oh come on guys, the dishwasher is empty! Load the darn dishes!" When did I become my mother?!?! (Not that that is a bad thing, my mom is awesome - see above note about the bread, people!) But really:

1. How many times do my parents say the exact same thing to my siblings and me...
2. There are definitely times I just leave my dishes in the sink hoping my roomies will take care of them for me. So yes, I was being hypocritical and crazy when I decided to talk out loud when no one was home.
3. I guess number one is a sign that I am getting older but number two just proves that I'm still just a kid - thank goodness!

Alright, time for me to get out of my gym clothes, possibly have a good sob about my exam while listening to the saddest songs ever on my shower-playlist, and then pack, pack, pack for my Spring Break Southern Belle Sorority Bonding Road Trip, otherwise known as SB^3 RT!

Over and out.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Happy B-Day!

The "B" stands for Bridget. Happy Birthday Bridget! I am really excited to celebrate your birthday and all, but don't you think it's a bit more important this year that we celebrate our 15th year of friendship? The 15th year anniversary gift is traditionally crystal - you know, just in case you were going to give me a present or something. *hint hint*

Kidding, of course.

Really though, I hope you had a wonderful day and I wish I had been there to celebrate with you. I cannot believe I am missing your 21st birthday after all the milestones we shared growing up. We have some crazy memories, B...

Remember when we would play with our baby dolls every day after kindergarten together? We would pretend we were divorced, single-mothers, each with a full-time job and an infant to care for. Thankfully we had once been married to wealthy (and incredibly good-looking) individuals. They ended up being terrible husbands, afraid of commitment and true, deep emotional relationships. This ultimately caused both of our respective marriages to dissolve, but at least we had child-support checks coming in...wait, why did we pretend to be middle-aged divorcees when we were actually just 6 year-olds....

Remember the time we painted hundreds of pine cones thinking that we could sell them to neighbors and become millionaires? Yeah, we were kind of weirdos...Let's not talk about the moss-stuffed pillow market we dabbled in...Remember when your mom threw all the pine cones away? Thanks Mrs. White, millions of dollars just thrown out on the curb of Heritage Lane.

Remember the time I gave you a gorgeous hair-wrap with embroidery floss? Then we decided to take it out. And by take it out, I mean cut it out. As in, I took scissors and chopped a chunk of my best friend's hair off less than 1 inch from her scalp. This was right at the front of her hairline too, not just some random section mixed in towards the back. Sorry about that, Mrs. White. I guess that was kind of worse than pitching some poorly painted pine cones (my goodness, what alliteration!).

Remember when your Mom (Mrs. White you just keep popping up in this blog post!) watched you, me, Sean, and Kevin...and we "played" Church. Yes. We set up shop in The Chapel of the Holy Living Room at Our Lady of Heritage Lane, complete with grape juice wine and smushed WonderBread hosts. Sean was the priest, Kevin was either the lector or cantor, and you and me, well we were old church ladies of course! I'm sure we had some important role but we both know that you are the one who remembers the details of our childhood. I just believe the stories you tell me of what we did on the second Tuesday of November in third grade, etc.

Fast forward a few years...

Remember when we went camping with Rhianna to celebrate completing our first year at college, our first true extended periods of time away from one another. Happenings took place on that Harbor Island - a certain raspberry-flavored "drink" (sorry, Mom and Dad!) was brought in a cooler with other provisions...a cooler Mr. Flanagan may or may not have looked in before our departure...and what do you know, the next morning we waited for an hour in the hot sun for Mr. Flanagan to pick us up. What could have caused his late arrival since when we called him he said he would be leaving right away to pick us up? I believe his response to our sun-burnt complexions and complaints was, "Always easier to ask for forgiveness than permission, girls." I thought that was what we had done...

Remember when the three of us decided to go shopping on Black Friday but actually leave on Thanksgiving around 10pm? We spent 6 hours on a highway and at one point we traveled less than one mile in an entire hour. We made friends with a construction worker and gave him a turkey sandwich since he'd missed Thanksgiving with his family. He enjoyed the sandwich but was disappointed we didn't pack any beer to go with it. We met people who we had mutual friends with and learned that they had hit a deer, somehow, while traveling at a speed of about 2mph. I have no idea what I actually purchased once we got to the outlets but I do recall laughing hysterically and having some of the best conversations ever, while literally parked on a highway, with two of the greatest people in the world.

I cannot believe you are 21 since it feels like last week we celebrated Sweet Sixteens, whistfully thinking of the next 5 years and how much would happen between then and now. I guess what they say is true, time flies when your having fun and distance makes the heart grow fonder. I hope your day was wonderful and I say, "Bring on the next 5 years, 15 years, 50 years - whatever! We're ready!"

Happy Birthday Bridget!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Something Actually Made by Maura!

I know, I know. We've all been thinking it. This blog is getting boring. Too much type and not enough sarcasm/baking. I get it reader, I do. There's a problem though:

Oh my goodness I want some french toast muffins. I can think of nothing I would like more in this moment than some delicious french toast muffins. And I would have some, homemade ones - if cinnamon swirl bread was not $4/loaf. $4!? Ok, as an economics student and a breathing human with common sense, I am well aware that I am being ripped-off when I have to pay that much for a loaf of bread. Do you want to know why I think that price is so high - Pepperidge Farm has a monopoly on the cinnamon-swirl/cinnamon-raisin-swirl/brown-sugar-cinnamon-swirl bread market! There are no adequate substitutes at the grocery store. No competing firm to keep the market at a competitive price. And until PF brings back the dark chocolate-coated Bordeaux cookie, I just refuse to buy their bread unless it is on sale. Womp, womp.

So I got vinegar instead. Vinegar and cream cheese. Why? Because of this. Could that cake look any more delicious? Despite my lack of 8" cake pans (add cake pans to the list of school supplies I'll be buying next year), I was willing to give it a try in one large, rectangular pan. So what if Bakerella's cake looks better than mine, hers should! That lady is a goddess when it comes to baked goods. Mine would at least taste as good! Nope. Foiled again. I forgot that the recipe calls for buttermilk. Cue extreme anger/disappointment. Yeah, yeah - I should have checked the recipe ingredients before going to the store, but remember, I thought I would be making those darn muffins!

(Plus just looking at the 6 cups of confectioners sugar that go into the cream cheese icing made my blood sugar levels jump and I almost developed diabetes at that very moment. I understand most baked goods are terrible for me, but really, 6 CUPS?!?!)

Let's regroup here, folks. I just ate some cinnamon french toast cereal (store brand of course, if I can't afford a loaf of bread there's no way General Mills would make it into this girl's kitchen cabinet). My coffee just finished brewing so I think the plan is to drink copious amounts of liquid caffeine and then find a delicious looking recipe (sans any type of bread topping) to tackle. I am still a little sad that I won't get to eat a bread-like baked good topped with bread, but I guess I'll survive....

While you wait to find out what I did bake, I saw this in the grocery store today...

...and thought "Why does Giant not want me buying candy or tabloids? What if I want a chocolate bar with my meager grocery basket of milk, eggs, and frozen mixed berries? What if I actually care about what the Kardashians are up to and I want to read about Kourtney and Scott?" Don't judge me, you care too. There is nothing to be ashamed of when all you want is to read your horoscope and some good gossip in a trashy magazine. Anyways, Giant is not trying to help me lead a more morally-restrained lifestyle. I saw a sign that said "Family-Friendly Aisle." They just don't have candy or magazines so busy moms and dads don't have to listen to annoying - I mean adorable - little rugrats beg for a candy bar every time they have to check-out.
Hope you found that amusing, if not, go read a trashy magazine, they tend to be pretty amusing.


One hour and a cup of vanilla-cinnamon coffee later:

There is a coffee cake in the oven. A coffee cake covered in a streusel recipe that was begging to be doubled. Life is good. Now to (im)patiently wait another twenty-or-so minutes...

It's like a picture frame filled with streusel!

Finally, a delicious-smelling, ugly-looking, yummy-tasting coffee cake
made by maura


(Here's the recipe, it just received the Apartment 428 stamp of approval so you know it's good.)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Will You Be My Valentine?

With Valentine's Day just around the corner, I've got love on my mind.

Last year on Valentine's Day I was in Ireland. I had spent a lovely weekend in Dublin, but on Sunday February 14th I took a bus back to Cork, my home-away-from home for the semester. While walking up the steep hill that led from the city center to my apartment, I found a single red rose lying on the sidewalk. It was perfect, beautiful, and obviously meant to be among other roses in a bouquet from one Valentine to another.

It was nice to find that one rose, but what I really wanted was the full dozen.

When Valentine's Day rolls around, I sometimes find myself wistfully daydreaming about having someone send a beautiful flower arrangement to me. No, I don't need the cheesy balloons and please don't send a stupid stuffed animal, you can even hold the chocolates. Just the flowers please. Because the only way for someone to say they love you is by sending flowers on Valentine's Day. Right?

Maybe thoughts like this are what's causing more and more people to detest Cupid and his arrows. I have heard quite a few individuals complaining about Valentine's Day this year. Yes, it has become a heavily commercialized holiday (thanks, Hallmark!). Yes, the ads on television for jewelry stores makes me want to vomit they are so contrived (every kiss begins with *gag*). Yes, I regularly salivate while passing the candy aisle of the supermarket while squinting my eyes because of all the blinding bright pink and red. But...

....I don't care. This year, I am celebrating Valentine's Day, and all it's sugary-sweetness, despite my "single" status on facebook (no relationship is ever official until it's facebook-official). I just have too much love in my life not to celebrate. I love my family and I love my friends. And they should know that. These are the people who I should be celebrating all year long, not just one silly day in February. But I will use this holiday as a reminder to be aware of all the love in my life.

Love comes in many different forms and from many different sources. Things can represent love, but they can never replace love. A bouquet of flowers would be nice and a three-stone diamond pendant representing the past, the present, and the future would be swell (I've seen too many cheesy commercials), but I do not ever want to lose sight of what matters most.

Love: Unpretentious - Sincere - Generous - Honest - Unconditional - Love.
Those are adjectives that just don't fit on little candy conversation hearts.

Happy (Early) Valentine's Day - now go tell someone you love them.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Math Love

I love math. I really do. What I can never understand is why so many people hear the word "mathematics" and make a face of absolute disgust. Math is the controlled art of problem-solving. Yes. I said art. But I also said controlled. There are laws, rules, theorems, and very few exceptions. After learning the appropriate methods, one is able to solve a huge variety of problems.

I like the mathematical approach to problem solving. Read the problem. Reread the problem. Examine and note the information provided by the problem. What is given or defined? What are you solving for? Recall what methods you already know and apply them to the problem.

Bingo - solution found.

Check your work. Check your work again. Check your work one more time...wait, really? I fully support the double-check method. The triple-check method though, that was required in 6th grade math. I am pretty sure it was only instituted so our tests would take more time and the teacher got more of a break. Third time's the charm though, so go ahead, triple-check if you really want to.

Math is black and white. There is (almost always) one correct answer. If there is not an answer, there is a reason. There is a cause: the denominator is zero, the limit approaches infinity, the function is oscillating, etc. Right and wrong are obvious in mathematics. There is very little gray.

Imagine if every problem encountered in life was similar to a math problem. We could apply known methods, follow rules, prove theorems and, ultimately, come to the correct solution. How much more straight-forward would life be? When I first thought about this, it sounded great. The more I reflect on it though, I have to ask myself - what's wrong with a little gray? As much as I wish my problems (and the entire world's problems) were easier to solve, a life ruled by theorems and principles does not seem like much of a life at all.

I'll take the beauty mathematics offers: symmetrical parabolas extending to infinity, hyperbolic trigonometric functions, the Fibonacci sequence appearing in nature, dictating the growth pattern of pine cones or the number of petals on a flower.
I'll take it's mind-boggling ideas of definite sums for ever-expanding sequences, irrational numbers like e and π, positive infinity and negative infinity, and the often-overlooked yet brilliant, integer 0.
I'll take it's problem-solving approach for what it's worth, an organized and methodical way to tackle difficult problems.

I will take all these elements and combine them - sum them if you will - with free will, personal opinion, faith, family, friendship and laughter - a whole heap of laughter. And the sum will be brilliant. It will be something extraordinary. Because to me, that is what mathematics is (whether you believe it or not) and that is certainly what life is (you better believe that).