Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Monthly Medley: April 2020

I don't know how this is possible, but I didn't finish any books in April. I should have had more time to read, right? Not less? Anyway, I read quite a bit, but I'm only about halfway through the two books on my nightstand: Someone Knows Something and The Diary of Anne Frank (which I'm reading aloud to the kids). I'll report in on both next month, and hopefully I'll have had time to crack open something new as well!

Like everyone else in the United States, Tom and I are watching Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness on Netflix. I honestly don't know how to best describe this series; I expect that just about anything I write will sound - at least to someone who has never watched the show themselves - completely ridiculous and borderline unbelievable.

In a sentence: this true crime docuseries centers around big cat owner and enthusiast Joe Exotic, a "gay, gun-toting cowboy with a mullet" (as he describes himself) as he feuds with Carole Baskin, the founder and CEO of Big Cat Rescue.

In a meme-esque dialogue:

The People: you can't possibly find a true story about polygamy, drug use, cult-like operations, harassment, exploitation, mysterious disappearances, AND murder for hire. 

Tiger King: hold my beer.  

Are you intrigued?

On a lighter note, Hallie and I are working our way through all the oldie but goodie movies I loved as a tween and teenager. Here's our ever-growing list, with those we've watched already written in red. Anything we're missing?
  • The Wedding Singer
  • Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit
  • 13 Going on 30
  • A League of Their Own
  • Miss Congeniality
  • Legally Blonde
  • Pitch Perfect
  • 50 First Dates
  • Now and Then
  • Sweet Home Alabama
  • Uptown Girls
  • The Wedding Date
  • 27 Dresses
  • Fever Pitch
  • The Wedding Planner
  • Save the Last Dance
  • Mean Girls
  • Ever After
  • The Prince and Me
  • The Prince and Me 2
  • Bewitched
  • Ice Princess
  • While You Were Sleeping
  • 17 Again
  • Life Size
  • Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants
  • The Princess Bride
  • Mamma Mia
  • Bring it On
  • Clueless
  • Never Been Kissed
  • Father of the Bride
  • Father of the Bride 2
  • Runaway Bride
  • My Best Friend's Wedding
  • The Holiday
  • Bend it Like Beckham
  • My Big Fat Greek Wedding

I know I need to save some of these movies for when Hallie is a bit older, but I've added them to the list now so I won't forget to watch them with her someday. On a related note, some of the movies we've already watched are borderline inappropriate for kids her age and maturity level, but I always look the movies up ahead of time and try to figure out if/when I'll need to do some strategic fast forwarding. (I also try to record the movies on television, because those versions are usually a little "cleaner" than the original versions.)

Listening To
If you have Instagram and check Instastories even just occasionally, and if you are AT ALL a fan of Broadway, do yourself a favor and start following Jessica Vosk. She lives in NYC, so that piece of her life has been interesting to follow, and is funny and fun and real. She's also an AMAZING vocalist, and regularly sings her way through her stories, which for a musical theater fan like me is a wonderful treat.

This recommendation might fall more accurately into "watching", but as Jessica's singing is one of my favorite aspects of her stories, I thought I could file her here instead. 

Anyone else tired of their Corona Wardrobe? I'm still on a jeans, t-shirt, and flip flops kick, but I miss my cute tops and shoes with heels. I realize I could wear the cute tops and shoes with heels around the house, but that just seems silly. To make myself feel better, I bought another quarantine t-shirt...which hasn't arrived yet. My first one - "EVERYTHING IS FINE" - came from Saturday Morning Pancakes, a company with which I've been happy both times I've ordered. My new shirt came from Adybelle, and I'll weigh in on the company's service and their shirt quality next month. (I can't say I'm all that impressed with the shipping turnaround, but I'm trying to cut them some slack given the current state of affairs.)

Hallie and I are also loving our new Noonday scrunchies - they do a great job of dressing up our messy buns!

My 2020-2021Simplified Planner by Emily Ley arrived, and I absolutely adore it. Pre-Covid-19 I would have immediately started filling the pages with summer camps, travel plans, and school holidays, but now, in the midst of Covid-19, adding anything to the calendar feels too risky. I did, however, write in my family members' and friends' birthdays!

New and/or complicated recipes are tough to tackle right now. Curbside grocery pick-up slots can be hard to come by, which means we're booking them - and choosing what groceries we want - far in advance. We also don't know if we'll actually get everything on our lists, which means we might not end up having all of the ingredients a specific recipes requires. I find myself cooking a lot of meals built around staples, and at least a couple of times a week we make family favorites - spaghetti, tacos, sloppy joes, beans and rice, breakfast for dinner - because they're comforting. We did, however, try a few new recipes that are worth sharing!
  • This Baked Lemon Butter Tilapia was quick and easy, as well as light, fresh, and delicious. 
  • I had a lot of frozen blueberries left over from a meal Hallie made last month, so I googled "muffins with frozen blueberries" and this Frozen Blueberry Muffins recipe popped up. I cut the sugar in half, used almond milk instead of 2% milk, and skipped the topping, and I was happy with the result!
  • This Honey Beer Bread recipe is only slightly different than the one I usually make, but I think I like this version even better. Blue Moon is my favorite beer to drink, and while I think it also makes the best beer bread, any beer will work. A note about beer bread: it does not get better with age. Eat it as soon as possible after it come out of the oven!
  • For Hallie's birthday, I made the melting ice cream cone cake pictured below. I looked at SO MANY recipes and tutorials on how to do this, but in the end there wasn't one I liked from start to finish so I kind of piecemealed a bunch of different ideas together. Here's a quick summary, in case you care to give it a try! 
    • Bake four round cakes (double a regular 9 x 13 cake recipe). Stack three rounds together, slicing off the rounded tops of the bottom two cakes and separating each layer with frosting as you stack. Put the entire fourth round - along with the sliced off tops - into a bowl. Refrigerate cake for one hour.
    • Frost cake with a crumb coat and refrigerate for another hour. Frost cake with final coat (the pink layer in the picture) and refrigerate for another hour.
    • Meanwhile, add 2-3 T. (start with this and increase the amount only if needed) of frosting to the bowl of cake scraps. Mix cake and frosting together, and then use mixture to 1) fill ice cream cone and 2) make a round ball about the size of a scoop of ice cream. Refrigerate both for AT LEAST an hour.
    • When ready to begin assembly, make one batch of ganache. (I tried a different recipe first and it was a colossal fail. This recipe, however, worked perfectly. Heat 5oz of heavy cream until just boiling. Remove from heat and add to 5oz of semisweet chocolate chips. Stir until completely smooth.) Keep in mind that ganache thickens quickly, so you have to be ready to work the second the ganache is ready to go. Pour the ganache into one of these squirt bottles, and start at the top edge of the cake. Squeeze a small amount out of the squirt bottle and let it run down the side. Move steadily around the cake until the drips cover the entire circumference. When the drips are finished, fill in the top/center of the cake with ganache. Refrigerate for an hour.
    • Gather the ice cream cone, ice cream scoop, two ~ 6" skewers, and a new/clean squirt bottle and then make a second batch of ganache. Skewer the ice cream scoop directly into the cake and cover it with ganache, letting the ganache run more freely on one side of the scoop. Then skewer the ice cream cone (remember that it has cake inside it to "hold on to" the skewer) to the ice cream scoop. Before the ganache starts to set, add sprinkles. Finally, refrigerate again, this time until 30-60 minutes prior to serving. 
    • Note: don't try to use what's left of the first batch of ganache to cover the cone, as it will have hardened and won't flow the way it should. Make a second batch of ganache, even though you'll have extra when you're finished. (I used the extra cake and frosting mixture as well as the extra ganache to make cake balls.)

Feeling Good About

We made it through April, friends. I hope and pray that with the arrival of May comes stability, comfort, health, happiness, and peace for you and yours.

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