Tag Archive | Friends

Tea Room Review: Chado Tea Room in Hollywood, CA

I feel like my blog is having an identity crisis. It started out because I was going to England and needed a way to keep everyone back home updated easily and in a mass quantity. But I’ve been back from England for nearly a year, and sometimes I go for longish gaps without posting because, well, I’m not in England anymore. There are no new experiences every day, no traveling nearly every weekend, no crazy study abroad stories. There is just life.

Now life has some fun updates right now: engagement, new job, business, and birthday fun stuff coming in a later post (this one has a very specific purpose). But can these kinds of general life updates sustain a blog’s popularity? Am I too scattered to engage readers? Is it harmful that when you come to my blog you aren’t sure what kind of post you are going to get, or is that part of the charm? I’ve been wondering this a lot lately and since I don’t know a ton of bloggers–and the blogs I read myself are very specific topics like baking and cooking–I don’t know who to ask for their opinions. So if you have any feedback, I’d appreciate it. After all you are my reader and you are the best one to tell me whether or not you enjoy reading whatever I write. Let’s get interactive people!

In the meantime, I wanted to harken back to the England days with a cream tea review. I haven’t done one in a while because, again, not in the UK anymore and until recently I didn’t think there were a lot of tea rooms out here beyond where I work. It’s tough also when you have had the best cream teas ever in the UK and you make really good scones yourself to enjoy American style cream teas. Maybe that will be some of the fun of my new quest: the Quest for the Best Southern California Cream Tea…QBSCCT if you will.

First up: Chado Tea Room in Hollywood, CA

Opening statement: If it wasn’t for having a Groupon, I would have been more upset about my experience here. I have really high standards for afternoon teas, but I knew going in that Yelp reviews were mixed so I went in with automatically lower expectations, thank goodness.

Made a reservation easily for mid week, and when we arrived there was a table set for us, but we had to find the ONLY WAITER in the whole restaurant and ask if that was our table. This was their biggest problem I thought. The restaurant isn’t huge, but it’s enough tables and enough work per table to justify a minimum of two servers on the floor. A great server could handle the whole restaurant by himself/herself with only the two bussers but unfortunately today’s server couldn’t handle it. As a server, I felt bad for him so I didn’t deduct his tip because it isn’t his fault management understaffs.

The decor isn’t like a typical quaint tea house. It’s very minimalistic with a twinge of Asian (I’ll update with pictures soon). At least there were white tablecloths (funny story I saw one of the bussers “clean” a table by literally flipping over the tablecloth) and the place was very clean. Not overly girly either which can sometimes get to be too much.

Tea menu is overwhelming, but the overwhelmingness doesn’t come from it being extensive (because plenty of tea rooms have 100+ teas on their menus and are manageable) but from it being disorganized. Six different sections for Darjeelings, Assams, tisanes and the teas that most people are ordering were in the back, and the descriptions all said “a perfect breakfast tea” without much else to tell me. Plus, every tea was “tippy”…uh okay. The waiter gave me a weird look when I asked to smell the tea before choosing it, a pretty standard practice for those who know tea and I had told him upfront that I work at a tea room. I eventually chose the Raijin (Indian tea with lavender and roses) which was great plain, but my mom ordered Lavender Earl and it was too much lavender and it was overbrewed. Aisha got the Sencha Rose and she seemed to like it. Plus the teas were cold by the end of the service. And they were out of a lot of teas. Which was a problem when we went to order our loose leaf teas and they were out of our top three choices. We settled for the Raijin that I had and then Sencha Cherry that has a promising smell for an iced tea to break in my new iced tea maker (thank you Joseph!).

Groupon was for afternoon tea for 4 and $25 of loose leaf tea. As we only had two people eating afternoon tea, we wanted to know if there were any alternative options. The waiter was very courteous and after he stopped being confused as to why we had a coupon for four people but there were only two of us, offered to package up the rest to take away. Great idea. Great point for service.

Food
Finger sandwiches were the best part. I liked how the bread was slightly toasted and the smoked salmon sandwich was awesome. Chicken and cranberry also good. Cucumber was odd since it was made with butter and a cream cheese/onion garnish. But butter can be traditional British.

Scones were somehow simultaneously sweet and flavorless. I’m used to the only scone flavor being plain or currant from my time in England, but Yelp reviews say that they offered flavors like blueberry or ginger, but I guess not for us. They were average sized. Unfortunately after eating the finger sandwiches, the scones had cooled and were hard as stale biscuits. Previous reviewers said to just eat the scones first while they were still warm and fluffy, but you shouldn’t have to eat the scones before the sandwiches. To me that says the scones are either not fresh or not properly stored. “Cream” was whipped cream (no idea why people keep calling this stuff Devonshire cream since it isn’t) and apricot jam. Had to ask twice for strawberry jam.

Desserts were dense and not tasty (mini carrot cake cupcake, pineapple upside down cake, two plain cookies). We left them there.

I also think that since they are located in California and more Americans are choosing gluten-free diets, I think they should have offered some gluten free options. The place I work does. Of course I’m only aware of this today because Aisha is with us and she doesn’t eat gluten so she had to have a salad.

Overall, I won’t go back there on my own dime, but with a Groupon deal it was worth trying. They really need to properly staff the place so that the poor service can give better customer service and not look like he wants to cry. I felt guilty asking for anything beyond placing our order because he looked that overwhelmed (and the restaurant wasn’t even full).

Pictures coming soon.

A Delayed Day at Disneyland

Remember my first ever blog posts? Those crazily titled alliterations revolving around spending a day at Disneyland with my dad before heading off to England? Yeah those alliterations were fun to come up with, despite the challenge of finding yet another adjective, adverb, or noun to squeeze into those descriptions. D is not the easiest letter.

Alliterations are awesome, just acknowledging that. Anyways…

Last Thursday (hence the delay reference) I was so fortunate to be unemployed at the same time that a dear friend was using one of her umpteen vacation days to reunite us at the Happiest Place on Earth. I don’t think Amy has made an appearance on this site yet, but she has been my friend since back in my dancing days–at least 6 years ago.  Unfortunately with both of our lives moving forward, albeit in amazing directions, we haven’t had a lot of time to meet and update each other on everything going on. So what better way to make up for lost time than an entire day together at Disneyland and California Adventure?

Exactly! Nothing. And I just renewed my pass so I am totally down for any trip to Anaheim with any person (currently accepting invitations). What I wasn’t really looking forward to was that drive, therefore coffee was in desperate need to get me through that two hour drive down the 5. Traffic…not so fun…thank goodness another friend introduced me to this iPhone app called TED a few weeks ago so I could make my drive educational as well as pass the time with something other than the same CD on repeat. Once I finally made it to the tram center, Amy and I did the typical girl squeal in delight at seeing each other. Normally I can’t stand being that high pitched, but we hadn’t seen each other in nearly a year so I made an allowance. We started at Disneyland.

The great thing about having a pass–the both of us having passes in fact–is that you are never stressed about going on every single ride. Skip Big Thunder this time around? No big deal, you can catch it next time. And then every once in a while you go on a ride that you have passed the last few times and remember how awesome it can be. Like our ride through the rivers of the world on The Jungle Cruise: we had a hilarious skipper that no one else seemed to be able to get her jokes, so we looked super weird laughing at one liners while the rest of the boat was filming with their iPhones and I’m pretty sure they were thinking that the audioanimatronics were real. No joke. Tourists (insert head shaking).

But there are classics, especially during the holidays like The Haunted Mansion decked out for Nightmare Before Christmas, that just cannot be missed, so we hit those up before lunch and moving on to the other side for California Adventure. Amy hadn’t been since February so she hadn’t seen the new Buena Vista Street entrance or Cars Land; I had a lot of fun oooohing and ahhhing over the new renovations, indulging inner little girls on rides like The Little Mermaid as well and widening our eyes at how pretty everything was. We hit a bit of a road bump when we were stuck for a few minutes on Radiator Springs’ Racers; totally made up for that snafu when it started raining really hard later in the afternoon while we were on Mater’s Tow Trucks allowing us to have a dance party on an awesome ride in the rain. We might have looked like complete idiots, which of course made it just that much more perfect. But I swear we compensated for our childish moments when we had a glass of wine at Golden Wine Vineyards restaurant across from Cars Land. Having just tasted a $400 a bottle Cabernet Sauvignon the night before, my $12 glass of South African cab/syrah blend was not the best wine I’ve ever tasted, but it did get me nicely tipsy for a hand gliding trip over California. That was quite fun 😉

The absolute best part of the day, however, had nothing to do with rides or good food or a slightly drunken attraction experience. It was (and forgive the corniness) getting to spend hours upon hours talking with Amy about everything from our jobs (her current as a medical supplies sales rep and my upcoming one at a new restaurant) and boy interests (oh the stories we had!) to our future plans and places we want to travel. Great and long lasting friends are really hard to come by, so I am unbelievably grateful that Amy and I have stayed close. Especially as now I have yet another person to go to Disneyland with all the time!!!

And to reiterate…always accepting invitations to Disneyland Dates.

The Ranks of the Unemployed

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. If you’re a Dodger, you don’t seem to be able to hit one, but for the rest of us non-athletes, we need to be able to adapt and duck when one comes our way so that we won’t get hurt. Why this has any relevance to the rest of my post, I am not entirely sure. But I started the post with the aforewritten sentence and it just kind of seemed to follow from there. What baseball has to do with my being temporarily unemployed is a mystery to me. Maybe I’m just a little more than a little upset at the Dodger’s season this year and I needed to get that off my chest before I told you that I quit my job this week.

Yes, I no longer work at Sake Bistro and Sushi as of last night. I’m not going to go into the reasons why I quit because that is unethical and honestly unimportant, but I am sure that I made the right decision. It was actually really difficult to do. My coworkers are the most amazing people and I hate feeling like I am disappointing people, yet how could I pass up these other opportunities coming my way? Maybe that’s what I meant by life throwing us curveballs. We really have no idea what is in store for us; just when we think we are aiming at a fast ball, the ball falls away to the right and we have to adjust our plan.

Oh yeah, I just got deep with you 😉

And now I get the luxury to think: what will I do with all my time off??? I can bake, I can scrapbook, I can sketch, I can travel, I can…start memorizing the information for my new job that I start training for on Tuesday night. So much for time off! But I have to save money for grad school and traveling (as always, donations are greatly appreciated).

But despite all the week’s focus on my job, that isn’t really what I was planning on talking about. I wanted to talk about dance. Shocker right? Jenna talks about dance. It should make the national papers it’s such a rarity. Anyways, I’ve been training at this new place by the Westfield mall (anyone else annoyed that Westfield literally owns nearly every mall in the country?) for some intensive ballroom and latin lessons. And oh my god is it intense. I’m pretty sure that we spent the first two weeks only working on Rumba walks. But it is AWESOME. I absolutely love being back in a studio and getting to move my body in a way that isn’t walking to and from tables carrying food. We’ve been working on Rumba technique as well as general ballroom technique. Last lesson we started samba. Just when I felt like I had a handle on this latin stuff, Todd throws this crazy Brazilian dance with psycho hip actions and bent knees and my brain literally leaks out my ears with contrasting information. It’s nuts: Brazil nuts in fact. Regardless I am having a great time 🙂

Yet ballroom and latin are not the only kinds of dancing I’ve been doing lately. Laura and I head out to Thousand Oaks every Wednesday night to go country line dancing at Borderline Bar and Grill. Let me tell you, it is SO MUCH FUN!!!! It’s wholesome and every one is super nice and friendly and so willing to help you learn the dances. I’ve been about 8 times and Laura’s been 5, so we are officially regulars and we are picking up the dances pretty quickly I think. It’s so awesome to get all cowgirled up (yes we both own real cowboy boots now), dance our little hearts out to “Blown Away” “Footloose” and “Stuck Like Glue”, and spend a ton of time in awesome best friend bonding over good music. We might be a little addicted…but only a little I swear!

So those are the basic updates for the moment. There are a few really cool things in the works right now, but I am not ready to share those yet so you’ll just have to stay tuned!

Over and out!

A Long Long Time Ago…

I used to blog consistently. Now, it seems that nearly a month has passed and no one has heard a word from me (unless you are my friend on Facebook or in person frequently, which seems to be rare as well). I will admit, I went through a phase where I questioned whether or not to continue. After all, I’m back from Oxford for the foreseeable future and when I say that nothing of interest ever happens in my hometown, I’m not exaggerating. So who would want to read about my day to day, the grindstone of being a waitress or the battles of lacking motivation on my days off? Highly doubtful that it would be entertaining, hence I dropped off the blogging world to question yet another thing I was doing in my life.

Sorry if that sounds melodramatic, but since I’m writing a post right now, it obviously has a happy ending!

I realized something the other day, however. Yeah my hometown may be small and often the only thing to do for fun is grab a cup of coffee or leave, but then shouldn’t the responsibility to entertain my readers be a really good excuse to take advantage of those days off and go do something? Okay so this responsibility may only be made up in my head, but if an imaginary duty helps me find interesting things to experience, then I’d be silly not to milk it for everything its worth. Which is how today’s reappearance blog came to be! I won’t give up! I’ll keep detailing randomness and making up travels and sharing the moments of clumsiness with all of you…just maybe not as daily updated as it was while I was in Oxford.

So what was on yesterday’s Day Off agenda? History of the distant and recent time. Whoa, sounds deep doesn’t it? Sounds philosophical? Sounds like…mini golf?

The California Science Center, near that Other College in Los Angeles that no one of importance cares about, is hosting a traveling exhibition on Cleopatra, the last Pharaoh of Egypt. Two archaeologists dredged up over 150 artifacts and pieces from the edge of the modern city of Alexandria that came from Cleopatra’s Alexandria and two temples in neighboring cities.  Being a sucker for anything ancient and with a whole morning to call my own, I blasted out on Facebook if anyone was interested in joining me on my own explorations.

No affirmative responses. Sadness.

Luckily a superhero, aka Mom, graciously agreed to accompany me despite her not really caring about the exhibit. Once again, I owe her one. Especially as we got lost on our way there (that would NEVER happen around UCLA, I’m just saying…) and the exhibition didn’t end up living up to my unfairly high expectations. I don’t know a lot about Cleopatra’s story, because it was so long ago and so many historical records were destroyed by the Roman invaders most of the world doesn’t know either, but I do remember her having a fascinating minority before coming to the throne at age 17. But the exhibit completely passed over that, focusing instead on her reign and her relationships with Julius Caesar and Marc Antony. I did learn a lot of interesting facts that I faithfully wrote down (once a student always a student), but I still felt that the exhibit was lacking in some key entertainment value.

And the worst part? The gift shop. One of my favorite things about museum exhibitions are the book portions of the gift shops. I just recently picked up a gigantic biography of Walt Disney at the D23 Archive exhibit at the Ronald Reagan Library, and was looking forward to perusing similarly thorough titles here. Alas, nothing. Not a single book about her, her life, Egypt in general; nothing except the official exhibition guide book. I feel cheated. That alone took the exhibition’s total possible awesome score from a maximum of 10 points on a scale down to 6. Meaning the exhibit ended at a 5. So sad. But at least we found our way home without getting lost!

So that was the ancient history. For the foray into more recent history, I turned to a new friend. A waiter I met from a different sushi restaurant booked up my night with the promise of shenanigans. Unfortunately, I am a sucker for shenanigans, and luckily for me, shenanigans were delivered in full swing.

I mean swing literally as well; we went miniature golfing!!! And I’m embarrassed yet proud to admit that…I suck at mini golf. And not just a little sucky, but epicly sucky. I scored an 11…on a single whole…at mini golf. Children don’t even do that! At least we had a ton of laughs. We skipped around like children, talking about everything under the sun as well as trying our darndest to not humiliate ourselves in front of any children playing ahead of us. It was a total flashback to childhood, and so much fun.

Overall, a successful and satisfying day off from waitressing, but that isn’t what really motivated me to return to blogging. No, that distinction goes to…cookies. Fall deliciousness all the way. Oatmeal cookies, with an added boost from vanilla bean and white chocolate chips, surrounding a Hershey’s Pumpkin Spice Kiss. They. Are. So. Good. I’ll post the recipe next post once I’ve worked out some of the kinks (this recipe is completely my own so kinks are an unavoidable part of the recipe building process). But trust me, go to your nearest Target and buy at least two bags of these seasonal kisses. Your friends would be requesting them all the time if any of them ever get to try them. Unfortunately, you’ll probably eat them all yourself so no one else will get that opportunity! Talk to you soon!!!

Certainty of death? Small chance of success? What are we waiting for?

Exactly, my dear Gimli. What were we (and by we I mean Aisha and myself) waiting for before embarking on our epic quest? Not much thankfully, just the third member of our little Fellowship to arrive. While we were waiting for his arrival on a black horse I mean car, we may not have been sitting in the beautifully woodsy Rivendell, but we were certainly eagerly anticipating setting out towards our goal. And what goal was so lofty and ambitious that it required three of us to complete? None other than the Holy Grail of our generation’s Hollywood Epic Trilogy Challenges: the viewing of all three Lord of the Rings movies–extended editions of course–straight through in one day.

What’s the big deal about a triple feature day, you may ask. Well, let me put it into a bit of perspective for those of you who haven’t attempted to conquer this feat. There are three movies (hence, the trilogy) based on classic literature. No big deal? Not until you learn the total running time, a meager 11 hours and 23 minutes. Psh, easy peasy? NOT. With almost 12 hours of footage, more than 7 of those being battle scenes with vile looking Orcs and the remaining 5 hours being walking around or running around or riding horses chasing after something,  one must be prepared with a steely attention span. Thankfully the landscapes of New Zealand are stunning or else the constant traveling shots would burn holes where your eyes should be.

Yet every true fan of the Lord of the Rings movies has done the marathon viewing at least once in his life, and the three of us were no exception. Once, however, is rarely enough and we decided on Friday to all join together on our one common day off from our respective jobs and indulge our inner nerds. Provisions were laid, timing was set, ground rules were made.

1. Begin The Fellowship of the Ring at 9:30, 9:45 at the absolute latest.

2. Have extra pillows on hand since we were watching in our loft and thus were spending the whole day lying on the ground.

3. No pausing the movie for bathroom breaks, phone calls, ab workouts, water runs.  The only acceptable pausing is for the dinner hour and letting the adorable dog outside to eat and pee.

4. Carrots in ample supply. Thank the Costco gods for bulk quantities of this eventually stomachache inducing orange veggie.

5. Other sustenance must include peanut butter and Wheat Thins in some form. A peanut butter with cinnamon, raisins, granola, and peanut chunks is doubly appreciated.

6. Talking during the movie is allowed, especially for conversations regarding the severity of spider fears, gymnastic techniques and skills, deciding which character you would most want to be, where in Middle Earth you are going to live, and what creature you want as a pet. (Answer to that by the way: Aisha wants an Ent, Pej wants an Eagle, and I called dibs on Shadowfax.)

7. A picture must be taken with Hercules and all of the movie cases to commemorate the achievement.

8. It is completely appropriate to quote the movie to nauseating detail. Embrace the nerdiness of the entire day!

With us all being college graduates, we are definitely not accustom to failing, and we never fell afoul of these rules. And probably the most amazing part was how on schedule we stayed! We took exactly 12 and a half hours from starting The Fellowship to ending Return of the King. Last time I did this marathon with friends, I’m pretty sure we started at 8 am and only finished around midnight. Hence the creation of the ground rules from all of our previous experiences.

Sometimes there is nothing better than a lazy day with good friends and great movies. You can talk when you want to, or you can stay silent and just rest. What you want out of the day is entirely up to you and perfectly within your ability to do. Everything went completely according to plan and made for an awesome end to a very hectic and sometimes very stressful week. But after 12 hours of laying around, curling up in a ball, or sitting cross legged on a floor, I am looking forward to being active tomorrow and crossing my fingers that I’m not super stiff.  Still it was so totally worth it! Long live Middle Earth!!!

Viva Las Vegas!

What do you do when you finish a really long and busy term in college? Provided you are 21 of course…you go to Vegas! Yeah it’s a stereotypical young adult weekend, but without a ton of time to travel, a two day jaunt to the Strip is kind of one of your only options to blow off some steam. And continuing in the honesty thread, Vegas would be pretty boring alone, so I begged, pleaded, implored, and practically dragged Aisha along with me (yeah right, she totally came willingly and without hesitation!). Two girls (and Mom) off to Vegas the morning after final exams, definitely a recipe for awesomeness.

Mom and I picked Aisha up mid morning for the 5 and a half hour drive into Vegas. The peak of the drive’s excitement was entering San Bernadino and Fransicquito Road. Of course, the only ones who were excited by that were Aisha and me, but that day was a truly a defining moment for us, so to relive it was a great kick off to the weekend. The rest of the drive was The Aisha and Jenna Sing Along Spectacular! courtesy of “Hairspray”, Dixie Chicks, Carrie Underwood, Daughtry, and a smattering of Adele. Poor Mom. Aisha can sing, but I certainly can’t.

We made it in at around 3 pm, and our first stop was M&M World!

M&M World Wall of M&Ms

I was super excited to re-experience this place that was always a highlight of my childhood Vegas trips, and we only went there because of how much I remember loving it as a kid. But if it’s the same now as it was then, then I must have been an easily amused child.  All it was was 4 floors of every kind of M&M merchandise they could think of. I felt bad for taking Aisha there because it was so awfully lame and we were tired from the drive. M&Ms took away from valuable nap time.

We went to our hotel (The Mirage, my first time staying there) and barely walked in the door when a club promoter gave us coupons for discounted drinks. And remember Aisha was in her boot cast! One would think that two grimy girls, one only a few weeks out of surgery, would not be targets for club promoters, but one would apparently be wrong. After we checked in, we got ready for the evening and headed over to the Venetian to kill some time before seeing Phantom of the Opera.

Venetian

There really isn’t much else to do in Vegas apart from walk around the hotels if you aren’t gambling or clubbing, so that is exactly what we did. And we made a stop in the food court for a snack and leg ice-down (on Aisha’s part with that one).

No weird looks at all…

Phantom was great! Even though it was an abridged version, I think I actually liked it better than when I saw it on the West End.  Some of my favorite songs were cut short though which was unfortunate, but at least the Phantom didn’t crawl around the stage like Gollum. After the show, we went to dinner at the Italian place in the Venetian that my family always eats at. We had a blast “drunk people” watching which can be infinitely more entertaining than “sober people” watching. It makes me really never want to get drunk again though. Especially knowing that we were not the only table watching people, who wants to open themselves up to that? Though I guess Laura and I probably will be when we go to Vegas at the end of the month.

Palazzo

Then we walked over to the Volcano show outside the Mirage. It was cool because I’m a closet pyro, but the heat from the fire was nearly unbearable. On our way back into he hotel, two more promoters stopped us and gave us VIP passes for both of the Mirage’s club/bar lounges, so we figured what the hell, we are only in Vegas together once. We ended up at King Ink (the lounge). $10 cover and unlimited free drinks? Of course it was the cheap drinks like a vodka cranberry or a gin and soda, so not really worth it unless you are really taking advantage of the free alcohol which of course we weren’t. One vodka cranberry each and we were both back in bed, sleeping like babies.

We actually slept in until 9:30, something neither of us have done in I don’t know how long! By the time we finally made it through the madhouse line at Starbucks and over to the Paris Hotel, it was past 10:30. As I said, about one of the only things to do around Vegas is walk around the hotels and window shop. We went from Paris to the Bellagio and then through Caesar’s casino into the Forum Shops. In that casino, we ticked off one more thing in the “typical Vegas experience” checklist: gambling! We each played $5 in a slot machine, and I won $20! And then I immediately cashed out and we moved on to the Forum. We didn’t last long. A bit of walking around and then sushi was all we needed before we were totally ready to go lounge by the pool at the Mirage. We were in massive need of relaxation and sun! Not that getting sun in Vegas is a challenge, but tan lines get really uneven when you are just walking around and although neither of us are all that appearance oriented, anyone from Southern California understands how awful awkward tan lines are.

Now here is where the irony of all ironies came into the weekend. We were lounging, aka baking in the million degree heat, drinking our Pina Coladas and being rained on (just like in the song!) when I found out that I knew one of the cute British guys in the lounge chairs in front of us! He was a fresher at Teddy Hall this last year. He and his brother were traveling though North America with their family. Of all the people and all the places, the coincidence is just incredible. ANd completely awesome. We four hung out for a few hours before we had to get ready for O at the Bellagio (which was absolutely breathtaking and inspired Aisha’s newfound calling for a career once she is out of rehab). Once the show was over, Aisha and I ran or rather hobbled across the street from the Mirage to Harrah’s to buy Bailey’s and joined up with the guys for drinks and the Olympics in their room. We ended up talking and hanging out until 2 am when we left because I had another 5 and a half hour drive home to look forward to in the morning.

Bellagio

It was the perfect end to a wonderful weekend with my dear friend and mom 🙂 The only regret is that there was no tiger in our bathroom at the end of it.

Ode to the Stand Mixer

School has been taking up the majority of my time here over the last four weeks, so once again I am at a loss of what interesting stories to tell you. I could tell you about the time that I ran into a friend from Oxford wandering around Westwood, or catching a foul ball at the Dodger game on Monday, or my booking a skydiving trip for next month. I could tell you any of those stories, but then I’d be lying and lying isn’t really in my nature, despite all of those stories being more interesting than my life has been this month. I get bored sitting in my lectures (okay we do learn some really interesting stuff) and through my exams and reading my textbooks, so I won’t subject all of you to the same plight.

But I also don’t want anyone to feel abandoned, because no one like to be abandoned. It’s not fun either. In fact, my Hollywood Myth of the Romans class would definitely be more fun than being abandoned. At least in class there are some really over keen classmates to silently giggle at and interesting factoids about Rome to absorb for later random knowledge uses. There is none of that in being abandoned. Being abandoned is just…awkward. And awkwardness is even less fun than being abandoned! So the moral of the story is that sitting in my classes is better than being abandoned which is better than being stuck in an awkward situation like the one I probably just made you all stuck in.

So I’ll make it up to you with some baking. Everybody loves baking, right? I mean baking is better than sitting in class which is better than being abandoned which is better than being in an awkward situation! Best of all four worlds! And there has been a lot of baking going on in the house between this weekend and then today.

Despite having a paper and a midterm early in this week, I forced myself to find time to de-stress by baking. (Took a lot of forcing 😉 ) Let’s see, it all began with Friday afternoon tea with almond scones, or as they are adorably being called almond bliss scones, since everything needs an adorable name. The recipe is posted at the bottom of this post. They may have been some of the best scones that I have ever had! And Mommy loved them too, which is always important for a sous baker to approve of the goods being baked as well. These scones were surprisingly sweet and moister than the others–probably a result of my undertaking them a tad–with a slightly crunchy and slight chewy texture from the chopped almonds permeating the dough. Yup, no almond extract in these delights, just pure all natural almonds. Served with some unsweetened freshly whipped cream, the scones made a special treat out of our normal cream tea in the afternoons.

Saturday’s baking was a new one for me: a cake. This cake was actually my mom’s brilliant idea, and it utilized plenty of math skills, proving the age old adage to stay in school. That might relate more to staying away from drugs, but since this cake might be a little bit like a chocolate drug, I’d say that it’s an apt expression. Think about it…four layers, each getting progressively more chocolatey, light with a moist crumb, glued together by more chocolatey buttercream frosting, and decorated with a rich brown chocolate buttercream with my first ever white piping decorations. Drooling yet? Yeah, thank my mom for that one! It took forever to bake the cakes, freeze them, assemble them, and frost them, but it allowed me to get a lot of studying done in the resting time so that the weekend wasn’t an entire wash other than the dishes.

Now you’d think that between the incredible almond scones and the Everybody’s Happy cake (see? cutesy name is a must) I’d be acknowledging that I needed to spend some time studying or else I’d fail my midterm. Right? WRONG. Baking is an addiction, I swear. And with my parents off doing their own things around the house on Sunday, I had no one to distract me from my homework except for Peyton and Byrne, the authors of my British baking book that I ordered as soon as I came home to the States. Hence the second attempt of the Lemon Curd Swiss Roll.

Second attempt, you say? Why weren’t you made aware of the first attempt? Well that answer is easy: it failed. And not in an “Oh I used salt instead of sugar in my apple pie filling but luckily I haven’t baked it yet so I can just rinse off the apples and redo the filling and crisis is averted” fail. It wasn’t even a “Darn my macarons came out wrong, guess I’ll just throw together some Eton Mess and pretend this didn’t happen” fail (that hasn’t occurred yet but I know it will when I finally get around to trying to make macarons). This was a used the wrong size pan, forgot I had a stand mixer, didn’t grease the inappropriately sized pan properly, baked the cake in this said wrong pan for too long, and ended up being able to hold the cake up in front of me like it was a piece of cardboard. Absolutely nothing salvageable, but absolutely embarrassing to behold. It was quickly thrown away and I vowed never to speak of it again. But apparently that part of the event failed as well since I just spilled my guts.

However, I REDEEMED MYSELF! I made the same cake on Sunday but this time with a stand mixer and a properly sized and properly greased pan. And while it may have been a very challenging and time consuming cake to make, it came out perfectly. No mistakes. Some filling gushed out the side when I rolled it out, but according to people who have made similar cakes before such a thing is typical. And the reviews…they warmed my heart on the dreary Monday. According to my mom the entirety of my dad’s office raved about it, a few even went so far as to talk about hiding it so that other office mates wouldn’t finish it off before they had seconds, and I have two requests for the recipe lined up already. That is really the best compliment a baker can get, and I am super lucky to have willing taste testers so accessible.

Riding high on that success, I was placated in my baking for a whole two days, until today. For some reason, I thought today was a good day to not only make blueberry scones, but also Mommy’s Chocolate Chip Cookies AND a new banana cinnamon chip oatmeal cookie recipe. Why? Because I had spare time before my dad was ready to watch Gladiator with me for my film class and I’m hanging out with some friends tomorrow night and nothing says party like freshly baked cookies. Looks like the Office Ladies are going to be subjected to more sugar tomorrow, so I hope they all went for a run today!

Oh and I guess I never did explain why I would want to write an ode to a stand mixer. That little appliance is the hardest working appliance I have ever seen besides an air conditioner in Las Vegas. Seriously, it was invaluable in making TWO batches of cookie dough today, as well as THREE cakes this weekend! When I think back to the days of this last year at Oxford, creaming butter by hand and attempting to fold chocolate chips into a gigantic blob of cookie dough, I am even more in love with my mixer and wonder how I ever lived without it last year. The cookies came out so much better since they didn’t have to rely on my lack of elbow greasing ability to properly blend!

Almond Bliss Scones

 

Almond Bliss Scones

200 g plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
50 g soft brown sugar
70 g ground almonds
200 mL double cream (heavy whipping cream)
teeny bit of water
Preheat the oven to 220°C (450°F). Sift together into a medium mixing bowl the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar. Add the ground almonds. Rub in the cream. Add only enough water to bring all the mix together (barely a teaspoon!). Knead until almost smooth, about 5-6 times.
Place on a heavily floured surface and press down to desired thickness (1 cm). Cut out into desired scone size (5 cm). HINT: dip the scone cutter into some flour before cutting dough for easier removal.  Place scones on a parchment paper lined baking sheet.
Bake about 8 minutes until lightly browned or until you lack self control anymore.
Serve with plain, unsweetened whipping cream.
* additional ideas: add in chopped dried cherries when add in almonds.