Monday, April 25, 2011

this is country music.

There are a lot of people who don't like country music; it's too twangy, too redneck, too... country. However, I'm not one of them; in fact, I absolutely love the stuff. I'm from a small town in the Midwest, so I suppose this isn't that surprising.

To me, country music is about a feeling, a time, a place. Country music takes me home again, no matter where I am. I love country music because it's real. It's honest--sometimes brutally so. Most importantly, country music is down to earth. And at the end of the day, country songs get a part of me that no other music does.

Brad Paisley's recent song, "This Is Country Music," hits the nail on the head of all of the reasons why I love country music.
Yeah, this is country music.
So turn it on, turn it up, and sing along
This is real; this is your life in a song
Just like a road that takes you home
Yeah, this is right where you belong
Here's a few more of my recent favorite country songs.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

things i love thursday.

While there have been a lot of really great things about the past week (my final APO formal, Relay for Life, finishing a draft of my seminar paper, etc.), all I really want to talk about right now is the present moment. And at the present moment, I am at home in my own bed--where I will be sleeping for the next four nights in a row.

Because sometimes a girl just needs to be at home. I need to be in my car, sunglasses on, eyes on the the interstate, and country music on the radio. I need the familiar curving, country highways lined with trees and rolling hills that trace my path back to the place I know better than any other. I need evenings eating ice cream with my best friend and nights spent talking to my parents. I need curling up in my queen-sized bed and catching up on Glee before I go to sleep (without setting an alarm).

So today, I just really, really love Easter Break, and I'm so thankful for this precious time with friends and family.

photo via we heart it

Sunday, April 17, 2011

buttermilk biscuits.

There's been a lot going on in these past few weeks, including birthdays, formals, drafts of papers, meetings, and much more. In the midst of everything, I've been trying to wrap my head around the fact that I graduate in just a few short weeks, and I've been (mostly) failing.

This morning, however, I dragged myself out of bed and headed straight to the oven. Something about measuring, mixing, and cutting out uniform rounds of dough is comforting. When I can control nothing else, I can control this. So, yes, these are my final days of college, and I'm choosing to talk about biscuits rather than the jumble of thoughts in my head.

Because sometimes writing about food is easier than writing about feelings--especially if I'm not sure how I feel right now.

My past attempts at making biscuits from scratch have failed miserably. Finally, thanks to this recipe, I think I've had a breakthrough. I mean, my biscuits still aren't perfect, but they're getting better. I'm getting more ways than one.

But for now, you'll have to excuse me. I have papers to write, places to go, and biscuits to eat.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

things i love thursday.

PostSecret | Especially this one.

Being healthy | I had some 24-hour stomach bug earlier in the week, and it was not pretty. Lots of eating saltines, skipping classes, and lounging on the couch watching the Food Network instead of doing something productive. Thankfully, I now feel much better, and my appreciation for my health has been renewed.

NKOTBSB | I so wish I was going to see the New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys tour. In the meantime, I will compensate by listening to this song on repeat.


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

crown candy kitchen.

When I arrived at SLU to begin my freshman year, one of the first pieces of advice that I received was "Don't go north of the Fox." SLU is located in Midtown St. Louis, an area that has been revitalized greatly over the past 20 years or so. However, the same cannot be said of the area to the immediate north of SLU. Just a few blocks north of the Fox Theatre, the neighborhood gets decidedly... sketchy.

However, for those who are willing to venture north (preferably during the day!), there's a lot to see. North city was once a thriving area of St. Louis; it has some some incredible history, and the now deteriorating Victorian architecture attests to it. Most of Old North St. Louis isn't pretty anymore, but there are a few gems.

One of those gems is Crown Candy Kitchen, St. Louis's resident soda shop since 1913 and home of the best chocolate malt I've ever tasted. Walking into Crown Candy is almost like stepping back into time--like a little piece of old St. Louis that has been preserved for the modern day. And did I mention that chocolate malt? Because it really is the best.

Monday, April 11, 2011

grandma's apple pie.

Apple pie is best made with friends. Because it's more fun that way. Because good food (and calories) should be shared. Because cutting up all of those apples by yourself is a lot of work. (Thanks for being such a great help, T.!)

Apple pie also happens to be one of my favorite desserts of all time. Baked apples with lots of cinnamon, flaky pie crust, and a crunchy sugar topping--it can't get any better. My grandma also happens to make my favorite apple pie in the entire world. While I love pie crust, I like my apple pie with a crumble topping, and that's exactly how she makes it.

For this particular apple pie, I combined parts of each of grandmother's recipes. I used my maternal  Grandmother's "never fail" pie crust recipe, and my paternal grandmother's filling and topping recipes. The result was an absolutely delicious pie that incorporated elements of both sides of my family. My family has a lot of good cooks and bakers, and I love the recipes that they have passed down to me. I love knowing that the recipes I make today are ones that they could have made thirty years ago (or longer!). While we may be in different places and in different circumstances, something as simple as an apple pie keeps us connected.


Thursday, April 7, 2011

things i love thursday.

 (Because I love St. Louis, too!)

Cardinals Baseball. I went to two baseball games this week. Monday night's game was cold and the Card's lost, but I was surrounded by my fellow SLU seniors. Tuesday night's game was with tickets from my very generous uncle; it much warmer, and the Card's managed to pull off a win!

Dinner with my Dad at The Good Pie. Without a doubt, that was some of the best pizza I've tasted since Rome.

Avoiding schoolwork. Well, senioritis has finally kicked in. With less than fifty days until graduation, it really was only a matter of time. This one might come back to haunt me, but for now, I'm having fun!

When the perfect song comes on at the perfect time. Enough said.

What do you love this week?

Monday, April 4, 2011

new theme song.

"She said I think I'll go to Boston
I think I'll start a new life
I think I'll start it over
where no one knows my name"
As I have previously mentioned, I officially have post-college plans (finally). I will be spending next year serving as a Jesuit Volunteer! Coming to this point has been a long process, and while I'm sad to be leaving SLU and Missouri, I am also really thrilled about this next step.

As I will be spending my JVC year in Boston, Augustana's "Boston" seems a particularly appropriate song at the moment. I think I have a new theme song. :)

I know that this next year will be full of new challenges and a lot of growing pains as I learn to deal with post-grad life, but I'm so excited to explore a new city, meet new people, and do some incredibly rewarding work. (I don't know how I'm going to deal with a New England winter, but that's another story.)

Saturday, April 2, 2011

slow down.

It's a beautiful day in St. Louis. Sunny, 60 degrees, slightly breezy--the perfect spring day in one of my favorite places in the world. These are the days that remind me of why St. Louis is a great place to live, and an especially great place to go to college. Ironically enough, today also marks the beginning of the 50 day countdown until graduation. 

Since I was greeted this morning with beautiful weather and no committments until 6pm, I decided to take a run around the edges of campus. This is one of those little things that I've never done--something as simple as walking around the entire perimeter of campus at one time. From Laclede, to Compton, to Lindell, to Vandeventer, with two Grand crossings in the middle. These streets have been my home for the past four years. They have become both shelter from the outside world and an awakening to completely new sense of that world and of myself.

I laced up my shoes, grabbed my keys, and headed out the door. Initially, my run was invigorating, and I reveled in the simple joy of physical accomplishment in the midst of some completely gorgeous weather. Eventually, the fact that I was running on a basically empty stomach caught up with me, and as I paused to walk for a moment, my emotions caught up with me as well. 

Slow down, my body urged, and my heart also tried to heed the message. I walked the rest of the way around campus, reveling in my surrounding from some of SLU's most beautiful architecture to the message "follow your heart" written in the concrete sidewalk. I breathed in and out, and I took in the blue sky, the blooming trees, and the smallest intricacies of each SLU tulip. While part of me wishes I had had my camera in tow, I also know that I could not have captured the simple joy and beauty of those moments if I had tried. 

The tension of SLU's existence also hit me head on--the contrast between the perfectly manicured lawns on one side of the street and the homeless man pushing a shopping cart on the other side of the street. At one time, I would have looked away from him, uncomfortable with such a challenge to the often frivolous and excessive life that I lead. Today, I looked at him as an individual worthy of dignity and respect and thanked SLU for giving me a completely new understanding of social justice and the value of accompanying people where they are. 

With all of these thoughts running through my mind, my physical pace slowed to a meandering pace, as I pondered the meaning of my past four years at SLU. I really can't believe that all of this is happening, that these streets that have sheltered, shaped, and challenged me for so long are getting ready to lead me out into the bigger world. I'm moving to a new city in a few months, taking on new & different work, and learning to live with & love new roommates. And as exciting as all of that is, all my heart is saying to me at the moment is slow down. Appreciate. Savor. Revel. Be here now in this moment, not in the past, not in the future.

I'm compiling a list of 50 things I want to do or accomplish before graduation (currently, I'm only at about 40, but I'm confident that the rest will come). Some are silly and stupid; others are nostalgic and meaningful. But in some way or another, they each represent the reasons why I have fallen so in love with SLU over the past four years.

Those who know me well can attest to the fact that I'm kind of an overly-emotional person. (Example: hearing "I Gotta Feeling" by the Black Eyed Peas almost made me break down in tears last night... in the middle of a crowded bar. It reminds me of Rome, okay?) With that in mind, I have no idea how I'm going to handle these coming weeks. I'm freaked out that I'm not already an emotional mess; this is just a sign that I'm in denial. 

Perhaps all I can do to deal with what's about to happen is to slow down--to savor every $1 pitcher of beer from Humphrey's, every minute of class, every Wednesday night dinner with my roommates, every homily at 9pm Mass on Sunday nights, every run around campus in beautiful weather. And as I slow down, hopefully I will take time to be thankful for what I have been given here and to ponder what I will give back in return.

Friday, April 1, 2011

irish car bomb cupcakes.

An Irish Car Bomb is a drink composed of a shot of Bailey's and Irish whiskey dropped into a glass of Guinesss. The drink has to be drank immediately after the shot is dropped in or else it will curdle, but somehow, the Guinness and Baileys combine to make something that actually tastes pretty good.

In honor of St. Patrick's Day a couple of weeks ago, I baked a cupcake version of an Irish Car Bomb. While I wasn't able to make them on St. Patrick's Day because of Spring Break, I just made them belatedly when I got back to my apartment. While the cupcake version is a much sweeter experience, it still retains a lot of the essential elements of the drink, namely Guinness (baked into the chocolate cake) and Bailey's (in the filling and frosting).

While I baked these cupcakes in honor of St. Patrick's Day, don't let the fact that the holiday has passed keep you from trying them. They are good enough to be eaten any day, not just on a holiday. I consider them to be one of the best things I've baked all year, and I've baked a lot! In other news, I need to buy a real piping bag because the icing on these just looks sad.

The recipe for the cupcakes is from Annie's Eats; I didn't make any changes except to use chocolate mint Bailey's (well, actually an off-brand) instead of the normal kind. I think the faint hint of mint makes them taste even better!