I’ve been a really rubbish blogger again this month. I don’t even have a bunch of good excuses for you – just one: I GOT INTO THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON!!!! I start in January and am very, very excited. It doesn’t quite feel yet, but I imagine it will as soon as the first tuition check is sent.
Aside from celebrating the good news, holidays and family obligations have also been distracting me, but that’s never not the case. So really, I just blew it this month. My apologies.
In any case, I am really into the black cherry trend right now. You might call the color oxblood, burgundy, maroon, whatever. I prefer black cherry, though, because it reminds me of food and not the blood of a beast of burden. But that’s just me.
I have long loved this shade of red. I really like the look of it on short nails and as a lipstick, the latter of which I think I’m too pale to pull off (actually, I’m just too lazy for lipstick. Plus I tend to eat it off. Yum!). It looks good on everyone and goes with everything. One of my favorite sweaters is a black cherry off-the-shoulder open-knit sweater. I like to wear it with skinny jeans and booties. I look awesome in it, in large part due to the color.
Something has been on my mind lately…
Street harassment has been a hot topic recently. It sprang into the news earlier this fall when The Daily Show’s Jessica Williams responded to some clueless Fox News anchors describing claps and catcalls toward women as “compliments.” She then proceeded to sit down with women in Manhattan to talk about their personal experiences with street harassment, as well as taking The Daily Show viewers on a journey through her daily footed commute in downtown New York City.
Being hassled on the street is not new (my mother has told me stories of men hanging out of cars and making kissing, slobbering noises as they drove past her in the 60s and 70s), but the media attention it’s receiving is. It’s a pervasive issue: I don’t know a single female over the age of 11 who hasn’t received unwanted attention from strange men.
In talking to guys I know about the issue, I’ve received a number of reactions. Most of them have been along the lines of, “Dudes are so creepy,” and “Women are brave just stepping out the front door in the morning.” It does take some bravery, but that’s not all there is to it. I’ll get to that in a minute. The second response I’ve gotten is, “They’re just telling you you’re pretty. You should be happy!” Uh, what? There is a huge difference between complimenting someone and going out of your way to interrupt a stranger on the street to tell him or her that you are “warm for their form” (only one of the lovely “compliments” I’ve received on the street). Compliments, in general, are welcomed. Pests are not. Especially pests that make you feel like your appearance is theirs to judge, and that you sure as hell better listen to them discuss your body and the things they want to do to it in graphic detail.
Now back to the issue of bravery.
Besides being incredibly offensive and inappropriate, one of the things that make me the angriest about street harassment is how it makes my friends and me feel. Yeah, the dudes are scummy mouth-breathers, but if you dare to let them know their advances are unwelcome, roll your eyes at them, or even ignore them, there is a good chance they will let you know you’re a stuck-up bitch. Being called a bitch by a douche on the street is nothing. What is harder to deal with is the inner twinge of guilt that maybe that stranger was right. That maybe I was rude to him. That even though all I’m guilty of is walking down the sidewalk minding my own business, I’m the bitch for not smiling/flirting with/reacting positively to a sexually inappropriate interruption from a stranger. Yeah, catcalls can be scary and require putting on a brave face, and that sucks, but what I think sucks more is the feeling of guilt many females feel for not responding positively to these assholes.
Aside from the vague “compliments” received, the vast majority of street harassment I’ve personally experienced is being told to smile. I have what M and some friends lovingly refer to as Resting Bitch Face – that is, my natural, relaxed facial expression looks stand-offish and, obviously, bitchy. Usually my facial expression is a good way to ward off most catcallers and would-be Lotharios, but, sadly, this is only true about 35% of the time. The suggestion to smile might seem pretty innocuous at first, but if you think about it for more than a minute, it too is street harassment, especially when the suggestion is presented in such colorful ways as “You’d be prettier if you smiled” (thanks?) and the always popular “I bet I can turn that frown upside down” (no you can’t because I hate you and everything you stand for. Also barf.)
Jerry Seinfeld once commented that he didn’t understand what catcallers were hoping to get out of these situations. Perhaps, Seinfeld guessed, the men were hoping the women would run after them and return their feelings of attraction. What it really seems to come down to, like most negative things between the sexes (street harassment, abuse, rape, etc.) is, in my opinion, control. Men on the street want women to know they see them, that they have objectified and judged their appearance, and now they are going to force you to hear their opinion of your body, facial expression, etc. These men have reduced us to objects of appraisal that don’t deserve the same amount of respect as a human being.
By simply ignoring them, we take this control away, the catcallers get angry and want more control, etc. It seems to be a pretty vicious cycle. Women like Jessica Williams and Shoshanna B. Roberts (she recorded 10 hours of her being catcalled in NYC) are taking back control for all the women out there who have been subjected to this form of harassment. They are shining light on the men who do this, pointing out just how ridiculous and shitty they are. Hopefully by getting a taste of their own medicine (albeit much more appropriately), by publicly calling them out and judging them, this form of harassment will hopefully soon disappear.
While lusting after breast cancer-related items seems… odd… it is a disease close to my heart. My maternal grandmother died from breast cancer, and many women in my family have had the disease or brushes with it. October being Breast Cancer Awareness Month, it seemed appropriate.
Not only do I want all the items below, but a portion of the profits (if not all the profits) from their purchase go directly to organizations supporting breast cancer research such as The Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Keep a Breast Foundation, Stand Up 2 Cancer, and Bright Pink.
Real Simple is one of my very favorite magazines. While thumbing through this month’s issue, I was delighted to see a recipe for brownies. The picture looked delicious (what picture of brownies doesn’t?), and I have made recipes from Real Simple before, so I was pretty excited to give it a go.
The recipe is called “Espresso Brownies” simply because it calls for 2 tablespoons brewed espresso (you can substitute 1 rounded teaspoon espresso powder and 2 tablespoons water like I did, though), but as we all know, espresso is a key ingredient in many great brownie recipes. Espresso doesn’t necessarily make baked goods taste like coffee, it just brings out and intensifies the chocolatey flavor. So I sort of think the name of the recipe is misleading, but whatever.
Real Simple’s Espresso Brownies adapted from Lindsay Hunt’s recipe
Makes 16 brownies
3/4 cup unsalted butter, plus more for the pan (I used Earth Balance)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon fine salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs
2 tablespoons brewed espresso, at room temperature (or use the mix I mentioned above)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used semisweet because that’s what I had on hand)
Heat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Butter an 8-inch square baking pan. Line with 2 criss-crossed pieces of parchment, buttering in between the pieces to help them stick and leaving an overhand on all sides. Butter the top of the parchment.
Whisk together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder in a medium bowl; set aside.
Combine the butter and unsweetened chocolate in a double boiler until melted. Let cool slightly. Whisk in the sugars, eggs, espresso, and vanilla until smooth. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined. Fold in the bittersweet chocolate.
Spread the batter in the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, 35 – 40 minutes. Let cool completely in the pan.
Holding the paper overhand, lift the brownies out of the pan and transfer to a cutting board. Cut into 16 squares.
These brownies were really good. Before I had a chance to say anything to him, M announced how delicious they were and said they might be as good as the Baked brownies. That’s pretty impressive! I liked them quite a bit, too, but they didn’t melt in your mouth quite the way the Baked ones did. They were pretty moist (6/7), definitely chocolatey (10/10), and didn’t require much in terms of messiness preparing (3/3). This leaves a total score of 19/20, tying with the Supernatural Brownies. Nicely done, Real Simple!
We’re experiencing a pretty long summer here in Seattle – it has been hot. But that hasn’t stopped fall fashion from creeping its way into my mind. One trend I really like right now is pastels for autumn. Normally I’m more of a jewel-toned kind of gal (those jewels being onyx, tourmaline, and obsidian), but I like the juxtaposition of bright, cheery colors against fall’s grey skies and stormy weather. The soft, subtle colors also make for an easy transition from the hot summer we’ve been having to the cool, crisp fall that I hope we’ll be getting soon.
Plus, pastels match rose gold jewelry perfectly, another thing I’m loving right now.
We’ve all made mistakes we aren’t proud of, least of which involve our appearance. While at the time I thought each of the items on this list were the height of beauty/fashion/coolness/whatever, I was very, very wrong. At least my peers were doing equally idiotic things so we all looked like morons together.
- Blue glitter. My mom wasn’t really on board with me wearing makeup when I was in the 4th and 5th grade (who can blame her?), but I was raring to go. While on a trip to Claire’s with some friends, we all bought tiny vials of sticky blue glitter and proceeded to use it almost everyday for the next 6 months. I smeared it on my eyes, lips, cheeks, and hair. It held a special place on my dresser and I felt very, very grown up whenever I wore it. Because grown-ups often slather themselves with sticky, navy blue flecks of shiny plastic.
- Scrunchies were for my hair, obviously – I loved the way they made ponytails stick crazily far out the side of my head. Scrunchies also served as a fashion accessory, too: I used them as bracelets, anklets, and to tie up the sided of my oversized tee shirts.
- Bonne Bell Emotions perfume. Remember these guys? They came in little glass bottles with a silver top. My friends and I went absolutely nuts over them – almost as nuts as we went over gel pens. My favorite was the “Flirty” scent, despite being hideously shy around boys. I thought that if I wore the perfume, boys would flock to me because they would smell my alluring coquettishness like bloodhounds. They did not.
- I loved my overalls and was furious that my mom wouldn’t let me do as the cool girls did and let one of the straps remain unbuckled. Perhaps she thought it was sloppy or stupid looking. Either way, she was correct. For some reason overalls are making a bit of a comeback and all I can say is, unless you’re a farmer or a toddler, WHY.
- Exclamation perfume. This eau de barf by Coty is apparently still being sold at drugstores and online. After I deemed myself too grown up for Bonne Bell, I moved onto this perfume. It claims to be a blend of peach, apricot, amber, and sandalwood, and my friends and I all thought we smelled great, but in actual fact I think we probably smelled more like musky farts.
- Brown lipstick. Because who doesn’t want to look like they just snacked on a turd?
- Puka shell necklaces. These things were ridiculously popular in junior high and made every single wearer – male and female alike – look like a giant douche.
- Over-plucked eyebrows. Right before my freshman year of high school I decided that my eyebrows (which are dark blonde and naturally somewhat sparse already) needed to be taken care of. This meant plucking them within an inch of their life and then drawing them back in a single, thin line. It was certainly a look, but I’m not entirely sure what I was going for. I maimed my eyebrows for years until finally, the summer before junior year, I decided to grow them back. That summer was not pretty, but it was still prettier than my anorexic eyebrows.
- Noxzema and Sea Breeze toner. I thought the tingling, cooling, almost-burning sensation on my skin meant the products were working to eliminate clogged pores and pimples. I was wrong. I now know that ingredients like menthol, alcohol, camphor, and eucalyptus oil are all extremely bad for the skin and strip it of moisture. But those kids in the Noxzema and Sea Breeze commercials looked so good!
- Jelly shoes. I loved my jelly shoes and wore them all summer. Nevermind the fact that spending more than 20 minutes in them would result in icky foot sweat and brown muck on your feet. I desperately wanted the high-heeled ones, but Mom said no. It’s just as well – all the sweat would have made me slip anyway.
- Butterfly clips. Sparkly butterfly clips were all over my head for a few years. Teeny tiny clips that really could only hold a few hairs at a time seemed glamorous and trendy. And who doesn’t want to look like a bunch of bugs have landed in your hair?
- Frosted pink lipstick. While this is slightly better than the poop lipstick, it still makes anyone who wears it looks like a glittery corpse.
- Peel-off nail polish. Nothing says glamour like bits of plastic-y crap stuck to your nails. For some reason they made a comeback a few years ago and a grown-up version of peel-off nail polish was being sold at Anthropologie. I was tempted to buy it, but somehow restrained myself.
- Crimped hair. I loved crimped hair. There are still unfortunate pictures of me at a roller rink with huge, crimped hair. I would spend the night before painstakingly braiding my wet hair and the next morning woke to a big, delightfully poufy coif. When I see crimping irons being sold in stores nowadays, I shake my head. This style looks good on no one.
- Bucket hats. No summer outfit during the 6th grade was complete without my bucket hat. For some reason I thought it made me look trendy and outdoorsy. I’ve since learned that I’m really not a hat person, especially if the hat looks like a bucket.
I haven’t been making brownies much lately – I’ve been spending more time honing my chocolate chip cookie recipe and M has been a-okay with that. He isn’t a big fan of me trying new recipes for brownies because he already likes the Baked Brownie so much. M feels all other brownies pale in comparison and doesn’t like having lesser brownies around the house. I understand his plight, but I’m doing this for brownie science. He just doesn’t understand.
Anyway, last month I made Cook’s Illustrated’s Chewy Brownies with a few tweaks: less oil – I didn’t want the brownies slipping out of my hands, and I used Earth Balance instead of butter, though that’s never been an issue for me taste- or texture-wise. The amount and type of chocolate (the most important part!) remained the same, though.
Chewy Brownies adapted from Cook’s Illustrated
Makes about 12 – 16 brownies
1/3 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1 1/2 teaspoons instant espresso
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons boiling water
2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (I used Earth Balance), melted
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 egg yolks
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sugar
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
Adjust your oven rack to the lowest positions and preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a 9×13-inch pan with foil and spray with cooking spray.
Whisk cocoa, espresso powder, and boiling water together in a large bowl until smooth. Add unsweetened chocolate and whisk until chocolate is melted. Whisk in melted butter and oil. The mixture might look clumpy, that’s okay. Add eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue whisking until smooth.
Whisk in sugar until fully mixed. Add flour and salt and mix with a rubber spatula until combined. Fold in bittersweet chocolate pieces.
Scrape batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted halfway between the edge and the center comes out clean with a few moist crumbs – about 30 – 35 minutes. Let cool completely.
When cooled, lift the brownies from the pan and cut into 2-inch squares.
Well, these brownies certainly lived up to their name – they were delightfully chewy. But that’s about it. They weren’t all that chocolatey and just didn’t do it for me. They were sort of moist (5/7), but not at all chocolatey enough (4/10). They also were easy enough to make, but required lots of different bowls (2/3). This leaves a total score of 11 out of 20 – not excellent. I expect more from you, Cook’s Illustrated!