Welcome to my Day dreams...

Thanks for stoppin' in and welcome to my Day Dreams.

I am a former educator turned PhD student and avid foodie. This blog contains my thoughts regarding all of these areas of my life. Take your time, browse around, and hopefully you'll find something you like. --Love, Katy

Friday, December 30, 2011

A Merry Durham Christmas

This Christmas was absolutely wonderful. I can't tell you how great it was to have my family here to celebrate. This was the first time that I have hosted a holiday event. All in all, I would say it was very successful and I learned a lot along the way.

Lessons Learned:
1) Plan in advance. Even if you don't feel like you have the time, do little things along the way (switching out mugs, putting up the tree, picking up stocking stuffers). Also, keep a running list of things you would like to do (if you could do all you wanted to do), so that you don't forget them and feel frustrated at the last minute.
2) Accept that you won't get everything done. I planned on making at least 2 other dishes (a pound cake and something else I can't even remember now) for this Christmas.  Didn't happen and letting them go let me spend more time with my loved ones and not being stuck in the kitchen. Really, we had plenty of food and didn't need them anyway.
3) Allow help. If people offer help-accept it. I have this weird complex where I feel like I should be able to take it all on myself. But, letting my mom help me make the food, getting my sister to make the coffee (although, I think others requested that...) and decide where some things should go, letting my boyfriend bring lunch-- it all really made things easier.
4) Remind yourself about what it's all about. It's all about being with the ones you love and remembering this over and over helps you with 1-3 and let's you spend more time with everyone.

The only thing that would have made it better would have been if my brother had been here. He had to work, so he couldn't make it. We did, however, make the most of the situation and facetimed on Christmas.  That was really special.
The second best part of the holiday was definitely the food. There was so much good stuff and I got to experiment with a few recipes. For instance, I made a cheesecake for the first time without my mother for my boyfriend.
I followed a recipe that shaved a milk and white chocolate bar on the crust before baking and then on top after it was finished cooling. I thought this technique was pretty ingenious and may try it with some other chocolates another time. I'm still waiting to taste test the final result myself, but I've heard it was good!
My mother also helped me set up the menu for our three big meals. For Christmas Eve, we had shrimp scampi with garlic bread, green beans, asparagus, and caprese salad.
For dessert, we had Alton Brown's chocolate mousse (found on the food network website).
It was delicious, but I wish I had taken it out of the refrigerator about half an hour before I planned to serve it. It's a very dark mousse, so the sweetened whipped cream definitely helped to balance the flavor. I also sprinkled a little cocoa on top.

For breakfast, we had little smokies, my sister's scrambled eggs (she makes the best), a variety of sweet breads: Stollen from the Guglhupf, banana bread, and pumpkin bread (provided by my Aunt Bea), and stewed apples.
Last, we had ham, asparagus, green beans, roasted potatoes, and a salad with pecans, pears, and pomegranate seeds with a citrus vinaigrette.
For dessert, my mom suggested fondue. This was brilliant considering we had all stuffed ourselves silly already. We had blackberries, raspberries, bananas, apples, and pineapples. Mom and I made a chocolate sauce with Grand Marnier (YUM!-Thanks, Mom) and also used a salted caramel sauce that I had made that is to die for (Recipe and pictures below).

I'm so thankful for such a wonderful time. Even though everything didn't go as planned, it didn't really matter. Just being able to spend time with everyone was all I needed!

Here's the salted caramel sauce I was talking about. SO, so good. It's definitely a keeper.  

Salted Caramel Sauce 
1/3 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream
1 to a few pinches of sea salt

1) In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine water and sugar. Stir frequently until sugar dissolves.
2) Increase heat and boil the mixture WITHOUT stirring until the syrup is a deep amber color. Occasionally brush down the sides of the saucepan with a pastry brush a just a little water. (This will take about 8 to 10 minutes).
3) As soon as you get the deep amber color, reduce the heat to low and whisk in the cream. The mixture will bubble up and make a lot of noise but don't be scared, just be careful and keep whisking until smooth. Add in a pinch of salt (or a few if you like it a little more salty, like me).
4) Allow to cool in a glass or metal container.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Baby Parties!

Those babies just keep popping up everywhere, don't they? It is so fun to celebrate friends' and family's new additions and their children's milestones. What better than to celebrate with some cake???

This Fall, we had my friend Amy's baby shower here at the apartment. The theme was black and white polka dots (she's a big fan) with hints of good Ol' Carolina Blue. Going with the black and white theme, I decided to try a marble cupcake (See recipe at the bottom of the post). This is my first run with this recipe and doing marbling, in general. It took some patience but it was so worth it! The key was to alternate spoonfuls (I just used soup spoons) of the chocolate and vanilla batters in the cupcake cups. After I got them all filled, I used a knife to swirl them--but just a touch or else they would have melded together.
Here's the cupcakes before going into the oven:
And after!
So, the second obstacle was finding a buttercream that I actually liked. This has been a struggle for me in my last cake endeavors. Sometimes, I just can't get past the butter taste and it disappoints me. This one that I found seems to be a keeper though (See recipe at bottom).  One of the keys was using real vanilla bean paste instead of just real vanilla extract. It made the flavor pop and it didn't just taste like butter.
Finally, in theme with babies. I used a 50/50 gumpaste/fondant mix and chocolate molds to press these cute little animal toppers (sorry for the resolution, my camera isn't the best). In retrospect, I wish I had just gone for it and used candy melts to make these so people would have eaten them. Next time...
On the cupcake stand:
It was a great party! 

This week, we celebrated my roommate's nephew's forth birthday. This was our second attempt at cake pops and MUCH more successful! Our first was for the forth of July this summer...
Sigh... We had obviously overcooked the candy coating and overstuffed the cake balls. Not to fear, though, my roommate always pushes me into the next challenge! Her nephew's party was farm animal themed and here's our finished product. We had chicks, roosters, pigs, cows, spotted dogs, and sheep (cat/bat/sheep, but sheep none the less). We used Bakerella's directions for the animals.
So fun! The kids loved them (so did the adults). They are sweet with the mixed in icing--so I am looking forward to experimenting with some recipes.

On to the next project! With Christmas weekend coming up, there will be lots of good cookin to share! See you then!  

Marble Cupcakes:
Makes 20
  • 2 cups AP flour 
  • 3 tsp baking powder 
  • 1/2 tsp salt 
  • 1 cup sugar 
  • 4 eggs 
  • 1 cup vegetable oil 
  • 1 cup buttermilk 
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 2 oz semisweet chocolate, melted (always remember to invest in the good stuff-I used Ghirardelli) 
(preheat oven to 350 degrees)
1. In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder, salt
2. In a large bowl, mix sugar, eggs, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla
3. Mix in the dry ingredients and stir until just combined
4. Remove 2 cups of the batter into a separate bowl and mix in the melted semisweet chocolate
5. Alternate batters into 20 pre-lined cupcake cups.
6. Gently swirl the batters with a knife
7. bake about 15 minutes  

Vanilla Buttercream:

  • 3 cups confectioners sugar 
  • 1 cup unsalted butter 
  • 1 tsp vanilla paste (or extract) or more, to taste 
  • 1 to 2 T whipping cream 
1. Beat butter and sugar on low til blended
2. Beat on medium speed for 3 minutes
3. Add vanilla and whipping cream (I keep adding vanilla til I like the taste)
4. Beat for one more minute
5. Pipe onto cupcakes

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Rest is not idleness

Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass on a summer day listening to the murmur of water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is hardly a waste of time. -John Lubbock

It's my last day of summer, 2011. I think this is one of those days in the year that lends itself to being a perfect time for reflection. As I sit here with what my mother taught me to do with leftover whipped cream (stick it in your morning coffee),

I actually find it to be a pretty perfect representation of the last couple of months. While it definitely wasn't the most restful of summers (personified by the super black coffee in this mug-cup number 2), it was tempered and sweetened by glorious, homemade moments (the whipped cream on top).

Like most summers, the I created a to-do list in June. You know the one-full of books you didn't get to read, projects you keep telling yourself you really need to do, things that you'd like to accomplish that you think you have a little more time to do now that it's warm outside... Mine was about 1.5 pages long (granted, most of that was books I wanted to read). Looking at it this morning, I find that there are a few things (maybe more than a few) that have yet to be crossed off. For instance, attacking my closet, planning a year worth of service activities, completing my article filing system...

Usually it would bug me to have a list that I know isn't going to be completed by the time the deadline runs out. I don't really care though, because I noticed that the things that mattered the most-See family and friends, beach at least once, work on my cooking and baking skills, keep working out--all are crossed out.

My restful moments completely knocked the pants off of a work-filled summer and I consider that a job well done. I got to see friends of mine get married, had some crazy good food with my mother on our vacation, with friends at dinner parties, got to go to the beach 3x, make some fab cakes with my roomie, play with my precious cousins' children, sit on the porch with my Nana, watch some baseball, sit by the pool a few days, and read some great books: Hunger Games series, The Help, Bonobo Handshake, Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, and the memoirs of a sweet older man at my church who was totally in love with his wife and traveled across the world (just to name a few).

As for all of these pictures of food, they represent all of these fun times and feeling at home and the things I will remember when I think back on these few months.

Thanks for the memories, summer! Looking forward to seeing you next year!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Summer time and the livin's easy...

Good mornin yall!
I know it's been awhile-I apologize. Between the end of the last semester (that was a doosey and a half) and my beginning of summer travels, I've been constantly on the go.

I made it through my first year! YAYYY It was definitely challenging, but I am really enjoying what I am doing. Some times I still get frustrated-wishing I could do more and know my end result right now. I think this comes from being a do-er. Just have to keep reminding myself that it's a one step at a time kind of thing.

In the meantime, I have two great jobs this summer. One is very statistical-keeping some of my skills up :). The other is intervention driven and with people I really enjoy working with. All in all, super psyched! I'm still hoping I can find a full assistantship for next year. Keep your fingers crossed for me.

So now that we have caught up on the business side of the summer-to the fun side.
So far, this summer has been super fun. Jess, Edson, and I went down to spend time with Mom for her birthday and made so much delicious food and went to a braves game! Here are some pictures:

I was then able to get to the beach with my friends Ashley and Jeff which was so, so, so appreciated. Had great food, great laughs, saw some awesome turtles, and got some (if not too much) sun. Ash had the camera- so I'll have to update those pictures later :).

I also participated in the Race for the Cure with the Cureminator team for the second year in a row. We had over 20 members this year and it was an incredible experience. Especially because my mom did her first 5K with us! Jenni is an amazing team leader and we so appreciate that. The race has such meaning and so many of us have been affected by this disease. Let me tell you all about something that happened that day. We all went to chicfila after the race to eat breakfast. There was a man in the line who talked to me. He thanked us for running that morning. He said that he had lost three members of his family to breast cancer and that it warmed his heart to see us that morning. I just thought that was a really special moment in a vast array of special moments that day. Mom and I ended up making it on the nightly news (much to our dismay- since we were sweaty, gross, and crying) and you could see our team very clearly crossing the starting line together on the replay of the race. All in all-amazing. Go Cureminators!

I also was so lucky to have a visit from the Kinnairds when they were in town for Shelby's annual appointment. I know it's a long trip for them but I just loved getting to spend time with them. We went to the museum of Life and Science in Durham and the pool. It's so fun to see the next generation of us. Between all the babies on both sides of the family-it's just a constant reminder of how blessed we are. Cuteness everywhere.

There are many more fun things coming up this month. Will keep you informed. In the meantime have a great Sunday!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself- John Dewey

I've always been told that if you're upset about something, you can have your pity party but then you have to do something about it. This has been a struggle for me this week.

As I've said in my previous blogs, I came out of the schools for the same reason I went into the schools: to help make change. All my counselor friends know this story because we all have the, "so why did you become a counselor?" conversation both in practice and a bazillion times during our training.

I went into counseling after taking two classes from one of my favorite professors ever, Dr. Reppucci. His classes were both in the psychology department (my major) and one was Children, Families, and the Law and the second was Violence and Aggression in Children. I could write a novel about all the things I learned in those classes. The books from his class are ones I still own and read from time to time. The tipping point for me, was even as we are going through allll the psychology theories and policies, etc.--the same themes emerged every time. There are systemic barriers in our world which affect our kids-especially students of color and students of low socio-economic status. Going through the policy work made it just that much clearer for me. Here's the second thing: education was the factor that, no matter what, was the most powerful predictor of helping kids to cross over those barriers. So I became a counselor in the school system.

And dangit if I didn't have the same revelation about the education system while I was in it. Even as I was working with kids I felt angry about my inability to make change. I became so frustrated when I could see the barriers set in front of kids and even as I pushed, got pushed back. So now I'm trying to become an educational psychologist and let me tell you about my latest frustration. There is research and methods and amazing people doing good work out there but it's not getting translated into the school systems! We are still doing the same ol thing and getting the same results! Education should be accessible to all. You should not have to pay college tuition or move to a new location to be able to make sure that your child gets every single thing that they need to succeed, to learn, and to thrive during their childhood. Period.

And it's out there. For real there are so many things people are doing and studying that could help education right now and it's just sitting in a journal. Policy makers expect educators to read these. Yeah, because they have the time. They don't even get a lunch break or planning time anymore. Don't think that they have time at home either, because that's when they finally get to eat and do their lessons and grading. Readers who are in policy get frustrated because they want a 1 note answer--not going to happen people. Everyone is different, people need different things, schools need different things. But you want a first step-here it is: Stop penalizing our schools, our teachers, our kids who are struggling. Instead, why don't you give them what they need? Need some ideas? 1) teachers in the classroom (and I'm not talking 1:40 here), 2) resources that are up to date (kids need materials- and not ones from the 30's), 3) working facilities (bathrooms, walls, windows, regulated temperatures, clean air--sounds simple right?) 4) support-for students and educators-people aren't robots! they have feelings and lives and changes that don't stop. Their world is more than just math and reading.

That's four things- and it's just the most basic. We haven't even gotten in to educator pay, educator training, multi-cultural competencies and curricula, technology, revising what and how we teach and what we teach, making schools more kid-ready, etc.

Now... here's where my frustration comes into play for myself. How do I do something about it? With a problem this size, this deep, this old...what is my place here? How do I make my work something that is not just sitting in a journal (or a blog for that matter) somewhere? Where is my "now do something about it"?

To find out what one is fitted to do, and to secure an opportunity to do it, is the key to happiness.-John Dewey

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Restart Button

Spring break is coming to a close today and I am so thankful for the time that I had this week. It wasn't a "crazy" spring break, rather uneventful by others' standards but absolutely glorious all the same.

Most of those who are very close to me know that the last months have definitely been strenuous on a intellectual, spiritual, and emotional level. However, sometimes it is the simple, most basic things that take you back to where and who you really are.

The tragedy in Japan was the cap to my week's reflections. I can only hope that all the people, friends, and family of those in Japan receive some relief soon.

It is amazing to me how touching base with my base, my family, brings in to focus myself and the priorities in my life--which is them. My time spent with my mom, my cousin and her husband and her daughter, the phone calls to my sister, my brother, and my Nana, lunch with my dad's girlfriend and emails with my dad, phone calls to close friends are some of the great things I got to do this week. Those are the highlights of my break, my exciting and eventful moments. So very thankful as we are reminded this week how very fragile those constants in our life actually are.

As we move through time, we definitely come up against some hurdles. It's not to say that the hurdles themselves don't matter and often they add something to ourselves and change us, sometimes in essential and important ways. I find, however, that for those times when I feel like I'm getting a little out of rhythm, these times with the people in my life--the ones who are always there-- get me back on track.

Thanks to all of you. I have some really cute videos of Miss Riley (who will be 1 this week!!!). I just have to figure out how to get them on here.